There are many ways to classify ectodermal dysplasia syndromes. Clinicians in practice use a list of syndromes from which to choose a potential diagnosis, paging through a volume, such as Freire-Maia and Pinheiro's corpus, matching their patient's findings to listed syndromes. Medical researchers may want a list of syndromes that share one (monothetic system) or several (polythetic system) traits in order to focus research on a narrowly defined group. Special interest groups may want a list from which they can choose constituencies, and insurance companies and government agencies may want a list to determine for whom to provide (or deny) health-care coverage. Furthermore, various molecular biologists are now promoting classification systems based on gene mutation (e.g., TP63-associated syndromes) or common molecular pathways. The challenge will be to balance comprehensiveness within the classification with usability and accessibility so that the benefits truly serve the needs of researchers, health-care providers, and ultimately the individuals and families directly affected by ectodermal dysplasias. It is also recognized that a new classification approach is an ongoing process and will require periodical reviews or updates. Whatever scheme is developed, however, will have far-reaching application for other groups of disorders for which classification is complicated by the number of interested parties and advances in diagnostic acumen. Consensus among interested parties is necessary for optimizing communication among the diverse groups whether it be for equitable distribution of funds, correctness of diagnosis and treatment, or focusing research efforts.
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