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Editor—Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a genetically determined disorder in which the absence of expression of one or more maternally imprinted gene(s) in the chromosomal region 15q11-13 results in a characteristic facial appearance, learning disabilities (mental retardation), and severe overeating behaviour owing to an abnormal satiety response to food intake, together with a range of other behaviours. Initially, as reported by Praderet al,1 PWS was conceived as a syndrome of obesity, short growth, cryptorchidism, and mental retardation following hypotonia in the neonatal period. As more and more people with PWS were reported and research into the syndrome began, behavioural characteristics and other clinical features were added, culminating in the consensus diagnostic criteria.2Concurrently, the genetics of the disorder were receiving attention. First was the discovery that for many there was a visible chromosomal deletion in the proximal part of the long arm of chromosome 15 (15q11-13). Reports of an apparently similar deletion being associated with a phenotypically very different syndrome (Angelman syndrome, AS),3 and the observation that PWS was the result of a deletion on the chromosome 15 of paternal origin, and AS the chromosome 15 of maternal origin, led to the recognition that gender specific imprinting of genes at that locus accounted for two diverse syndromes being associated with apparently similar chromosomal deletions.4 Maternal chromosome 15 disomies, mutations of an imprinting centre, and chromosomal translocations accounted for non-deletion cases of PWS.5
In published reports on Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), prevalence has been variously quoted as “about 1 in 25 000 live births”,6 “between one in 25 000 and one in 10 000 live born children”,7 “[estimates] vary 6-fold from 1 in 5000 to 10 000; 1 in 10 000; 1 in 15 000; 1 in 25 000; to 1 in 10 000 to 30 000”.8 Only two estimates …
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