Craniofacial Development & Anomalies

Orofacial clefts are among the most common birth defects. Worldwide, cleft lip with or without cleft palate (CL/P) and cleft palate only (CPO), occur, on average, in 1/800 births and are complex in nature due to contributions from, and interactions between, genetic and environmental risk factors. Approximately 2,600 babies are born annually in the U.S. with non-syndromic cleft palate (NSCP). This translates into the sobering observation that, in this country alone, 7 babies are born with an isolated cleft palate every day!

Research activities in this division focus on molecular analyses of gene function in the embryo and are designed to examine the causes of orofacial clefts. Specific studies focus on genetic and environmental (cigarette smoke-induced) perturbations of the epigenome as underlying causative factors in orofacial clefting.