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Growth Factor Gene Shown To Be a Key to Babies with Cleft Palate Lips

Updated on March 13, 2012
Baby with cleft lip
Baby with cleft lip
Baby with cleft lip
Baby with cleft lip
Baby with cleft palate
Baby with cleft palate
Unilateral Cleft Palate
Unilateral Cleft Palate

Growth Factor Gene Shown To Be a Key to Cleft Palate

Cleft Palate is linked to dozens of genes. A recent research of one of these genes by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louise found that this gene causes the cleft palate to form both when it is either more or less active than normal. This finding will become important topic as researchers are striving to find a way to treat cleft palate before birth. Palate formation in the embryo is a complex process and cleft palate is often diagnosed late in pregnancy and treated after birth surgically. If this study is successful, doctors can diagnose it much earlier and treat it before birth. Cleft lip and palate affected one in 700 newborns worldwide, and surgically treating it can take numerous operations over years, and can cost up to $100,000 per patient. If the study finds out the genetics causes of this birth defect, it can be possibly prevented and more effectively treated.

Although some cases of cleft lip and palate are linked to environmental factors, genetic variations play a significant role in many cases. Researchers studied the FGFR2 gene, which has implicated in cleft palate. They focused on mice with Crouzon syndrome, a developmental disorder caused by a mutation in FGFR2. The study showed that mice with this mutation had cleft palate, and clearly showed that FGF signaling pathway is a critical regulator of palate development. This study suggests that development of cleft palate is strongly related to FGFR2, and if treatment can be found treating cleft using genetics, it will be something that can control FGFR2. If it can be controlled, cleft palate can be treated before babies are born.

I think this approach to treating, or preventing, cleft palate genetically is very interesting. I have seen many pictures of children with cleft palate and lips, especially in underdeveloped countries. There are advertisements asking for donations to treat children with cleft palate and lips. If this can be treated genetically before birth, cleft palate and lips will disappear, if this procedure is affordable and if it can be practiced easily. If this study is successful and a preventive treatment can be developed, many other birth defects can be studied also to find their genetic causes. Then soon enough many of birth defects will no longer exist. Then doctors can focus on keeping a healthy newborn healthy.

Despite the benefits of treating birth defects genetically, there will be negative implications of this as well. When researchers come up with a preventive treatment using genetics, the cost of it may prevent the children of lower income get the benefits. And ironically, newborns from families with lower income tend to have higher number of birth defects because of poor environmental factors, and that is why there are more cleft surgeries needed in underdeveloped countries. Wealthy people in wealthy countries will continue to fund researchers to develop more and more treatment methods using genetics, and soon enough, genetics will be not only used for treating, but for cosmetic purposes, custom tailoring newborns genetically. I may sound like science fiction, but I feel that science fiction will no longer fiction in near future.

After reading this article, I feel that in near future, every medical procedure will have to consider genetics side to it. I am a predental major pursuing to be an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, and I think maybe when I become a surgeon in practice, maybe I won’t need to do any cleft surgeries. Maybe my children will be genetically “treated” to have stronger teeth. But as long as the study of genetics is in the good hands, I think it will benefit the medical society and eventually everyone in good way.


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    • vslandego profile image

      vslandego 6 years ago from Canada

      I like your content, I have just posted a hub on My Nephew's journey, he was born with a complete left unilateral cleft lip and palate.