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J Dent Res. 2008 Feb;87(2):119-25.

Unraveling human cleft lip and palate research.

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  • 1Departments of Oral Biology and Pediatric Dentistry, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


The focus of this work is to highlight the most recent advances in the understanding of cleft lip and palate occurrence. Information regarding research on long-term outcomes, genes and their interactions with other genes, and gene-environment interactions is compiled to provide the reader with a critical and up-to-date overview on the current knowledge of the etiology of cleft lip and palate. Recent epidemiological evidence strongly suggests that individuals born with clefts have a shorter lifespan and may have a higher incidence of cancer and psychological disorders. IRF6 has been shown to be an important contributor to cleft lip and palate, but the functional variant leading to the defect has not yet been defined. Inactivation of MSX1 and genes in the FGF family has also been shown to lead to cleft lip and palate. In addition, missense mutations in several candidate genes may cause cleft lip and palate, but definitive evidence regarding the biological consequences of these mutations is yet to be unraveled. Maternal cigarette smoking increases the risk of a baby born with clefts, in particular when the mother carries the GSTT1-null variants. The latest approaches in cleft research include the analysis of several additional phenotypical features of the population, with the goal of increasing the statistical power of genetics studies.

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