A new study finds that women who take folic acid supplements early in their pregnancy can substantially reduce their baby's chances of being born with a facial cleft. Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, found that 0.4 milligrams (mg) a day of folic acid reduced by one third the baby's risk of isolated cleft lip (with or without cleft palate). Folic acid is a B vitamin found in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, and whole grains. It can also be taken as a vitamin supplement, and it is added to flour and other fortified foods. The recommended daily dietary allowance for folate for adults is 400 micrograms or 0.4 mg. "These findings provide further evidence of the benefits of folic acid for women, " said Allen J.
Mice engineered to have cleft palates can be rescued in utero by injecting the mothers with a small molecule to correct the defect, say scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. In addition to shedding light on the biology of cleft palate, the research raises hopes that it may one day be possible to prevent many types of human birth defects by using a similar vaccination-type technique in pregnant women likely to have affected fetuses. "This is a really important baby step that opens the door to the development of fetal therapies, " said pediatric craniofacial surgeon Michael Longaker, MD. "Our hope and expectation is that patients at Packard Children's and other institutions will benefit as this basic advance is translated into something that will eventually make a significant difference for this and other birth defects.
University of Iowa researchers and collaborators have identified new genetic mutations that likely cause the common form of cleft lip and palate. The results could eventually help clinicians predict a family's risk of having more children with the condition. The findings appear in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Cleft lip and palate, found in nearly one of every 700 live births worldwide, occurs when tissues that normally form the lip and palate fail to join early in fetal life. The investigation focused on genes in the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family, which function in a signaling pathway important in fetal face development, said Bridget Riley, a student in the UI Genetics Ph.D. Program and the study's primary author. "The fibroblast growth factor signaling pathway is interesting because it is involved in many developmental processes, and we were especially interested in how it affects facial development.
The 2007 Craniofacial Biology Research Award was presented to Dr. Karin Vargervik, Professor and Interim Chair, Division of Orthodontics, Department of Orofacial Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, USA. The award was part of the Opening Ceremonies of the 85th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR), convening at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Dr. Vargervik received her dental training at the Medizinische Akademie in Dusseldorf, Germany, and her Orthodontic training at the University of Oslo, Norway. In the late 1960s, she was a research fellow at the then-Forsyth Dental Center (now Forsyth Institute) in Boston, Massachusetts, after which she accepted a faculty position at the University of California, San Francisco, where she has been a Professor since 1982.
A surgical team that traveled to Zimbabwe successfully treated 39 children with cleft lip or palate, and an ongoing relationship with physicians there will help meet the needs of local patients, according to an article that will appear in the November/December 2007 print issue of Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Annette M. Pham, M.D., and Travis T. Tollefson, M.D., of the University of California, Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, report that primary and secondary cleft lip and palate repairs were completed without complications. "The cooperation among the Zimbabwean administration, physicians and nurses was integral to the organization and successful execution of this reconstructive surgical mission, " the authors write. "Ultimately, until the socioeconomic conditions improve in Zimbabwe, training and continuing education of local physicians are imperative to advance the care of children with cleft lip and palate.