University of Pittsburgh Researchers to Study Cleft Lip and Palate Causes

A cleft lip and palate are seen in about one in 700 babies. A new investigative team hopes to decrease that number.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine and Graduate School of Public Health will study the entire genomes of nearly 1,300 people to become better educated on the origins of cleft lips and palates, as well as how to treat the affliction.

Cleft lip is a birth defect wherein parts of the upper lip remain split up to the nose. This can also occur in the roof of the mouth or palate.

The research is being funded under the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, a 2014 bill that provides a 10-year research initiative overseen by the National Institutes of Health. The team will use the research of project director and principal investigator Mary L. Marazita, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of University of Pittsburgh Department of Oral Biology and director of the Center of Craniofacial and Dental Genetics. Dr. Marazita, who has studied cleft lip and palate since the 1980s, constructed a database of nearly 6,000 families to study the condition. Her previous research will be used to study the genetic resemblances of people with cleft lip and palate.

The McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University will provide assistance on DNA sequencing.

The ADA consumer website Mouth Healthy has more information about cleft lip and palate available here:

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Cleft lip and palate are birth defects that occur because a baby’s lip or mouth does not form properly during pregnancy. A cleft lip is an upper lip that is split. It is caused by the failure of the tissue of the lip to join. A cleft palate occurs when the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not come together.