Hirschsprung’s disease (HSCR) causes functional intestinal obstruction due to the absence of the enteric nervous system (ENS) in the distal bowel and is usually diagnosed shortly after birth or during childhood. While several genetic and nongenetic factors have been linked to HSCR, the underlying mechanisms that prevent ENS precursors from colonizing distal bowel during fetal development are not completely understood in many affected children. In this issue of the JCI, Soret and colleagues identify a new mechanism that causes HSCR-like disease in mice and involves deposition of excess collagen VI in the intestine by migrating ENS precursors as they colonize fetal bowel. Remarkably, their findings may explain some of the so-called missing heritability of HSCR and suggest a mechanism for increased HSCR incidence in children with Down syndrome (trisomy 21).
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