AloBar Holoprosencephaly: A Complex Brain Malformation

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AloBar Holoprosencephaly


AloBar holoprosencephaly (HPE) is a rare, severe congenital brain malformation characterized by the incomplete or absent division of the forebrain during early embryonic development. This can result in a spectrum of facial, brain, and organ anomalies. AloBar HPE is considered one of the most severe forms of holoprosencephaly.

Etymology and Classification

The term “aloBar” refers to the absence of the olfactory bulbs and tracts, which is a characteristic feature of this type of HPE. Holoprosencephaly is classified into three subtypes based on the extent of forebrain division:

  • Alobar HPE: Complete lack of forebrain division, resulting in a single, undivided forebrain ventricle.
  • Semi-lobar HPE: Partial division of the forebrain, resulting in a ventricle with only a rudimentary frontal horn.
  • Lobar HPE: Almost complete division of the forebrain, resulting in a normal-appearing brain with mild craniofacial anomalies.


AloBar HPE occurs due to abnormal development of the prosencephalon, the region of the embryo that gives rise to the forebrain. This may be caused by genetic mutations, teratogens, or a combination of factors.

Clinical Features

Facial Anomalies:

  • Prominent forehead (“bossing”)
  • Shallow eye sockets (hypotelorism)
  • Cleft lip and/or palate
  • Single nostril (cyclopia) or proboscis-like nose
  • Nasal septum defects
  • Ears positioned abnormally low

Brain Anomalies:

  • Single, undivided forebrain ventricle
  • Absent or rudimentary olfactory bulbs and tracts
  • Forebrain malformation, including agenesis of the corpus callosum
  • Midline brain defects, such as spina bifida or encephalocele

Organ Anomalies:

  • Heart defects (ventricular septal defect, tetralogy of Fallot)
  • Gastrointestinal malformations (intestinal atresia, anal atresia)
  • Renal anomalies (hypoplasia, agenesis)


AloBar HPE can be inherited as an autosomal dominant or recessive trait. Genes associated with aloBar HPE include:

  • SHH: Sonic hedgehog gene, involved in forebrain patterning
  • SIX3: Homeobox gene, involved in eye development
  • ZIC2: Zinc finger gene, involved in brain development


AloBar HPE can be diagnosed prenatally through ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Postnatally, it is diagnosed based on the characteristic facial and brain anomalies.


There is no cure for aloBar HPE, and management focuses on supportive care and treatment of associated anomalies. This may include:

  • Surgical correction of facial and brain defects
  • Treatment of heart, gastrointestinal, and renal problems
  • Nutritional support
  • Physical and occupational therapy


The prognosis for AloBar HPE is poor. Severe cases are usually incompatible with life, and most affected infants die within the first few months. However, some individuals with less severe forms may survive into childhood or adulthood with significant developmental disabilities.


AloBar HPE is rare, with an estimated prevalence of 1 in 10,000 to 25,000 live births. It occurs more frequently in females than males.

Research and Future Directions

Research is ongoing to identify the genetic and environmental causes of aloBar HPE. Animal models are being used to study the developmental mechanisms underlying the condition. Potential future therapies may include gene therapy and stem cell therapy.


AloBar holoprosencephaly is a devastating congenital brain malformation that can have profound effects on the face, brain, and organs. Although there is no cure, supportive care and treatment of associated anomalies can improve the quality of life for affected individuals. Ongoing research is essential to gain a better understanding of the condition and develop new treatments.

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