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Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2004 Dec;70(12):893-901.

Genetic approaches to identify disease genes for birth defects with cleft lip/palate as a model.

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Department of Orthodontics and Dows Institute for Dental Research, College of Dentistry, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.



Understanding the etiology of birth defects is an important step toward developing improved treatment and preventive strategies. Most birth defects have an underlying genetic basis, ranging from single genes playing dominant or recessive roles in Mendelian disorders to a mixture of contributions from multiple genes and environmental triggers in complex traits. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of genetic approaches to identifying disease genes for genetically complex birth defects.


A review of the literature describing successes and limitations for identifying disease genes for complex traits was conducted.


Cleft lip and cleft palate are common congenital anomalies with significant medical, psychological, social, and economic ramifications. The Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man catalog (OMIM; lists more than 400 single-gene causes of clefts of the lip and/or palate. Genetic causes of clefting also include chromosomal rearrangements, genetic susceptibility to teratogenic exposures, and complex genetic contributions of multiple genes.


Genetic causes of birth defects can be identified using an increasingly powerful combination of careful sample collection, molecular analytic methods, and statistical evaluations. We will describe a range of approaches to search for genetic factors of birth defects and use our own work with cleft lip and palate as a model.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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