Cleft palate research receives £200,000 award

January 10, 2005

Pioneering research that could lead to a breakthrough in understanding the causes of cleft palate in newborn babies has begun in Manchester.

Dr Jill Dixon, in The University of Manchester's School of Dentistry, has been awarded a three-year New Investigator Award by the Medical Research Council to look into the distressing birth defect.

Dr Dixon's work will investigate the role of a DNA-binding protein - p63 - during the development of the palate in unborn babies.

"During a baby's development the palate forms from two distinct halves that fuse together to form a complete structure separating the oral and nasal cavities," explained Dr Dixon, who has worked in craniofacial research for the last 14 years.

"The underlying developmental mechanisms are poorly understood but recent genetic studies have provided important insights into this complex process."

Helen Moore, a PhD student working with Dr Dixon, has already shown that a reduction in the level of p63 precedes palatal fusion.

Dr Dixon's research aims to reveal how the p63 protein works during normal palatal development and how it is disrupted in cleft palate.

"Patients who are affected by cleft palate may experience significant difficulties with eating and speaking," said Dr Dixon.

"The condition can be corrected to some degree by long-term surgery, dental treatment and speech therapy but the more that we understand about the way the palate develops normally, the more we can begin to analyse how and why congenital malformations such as cleft palate occur."

Dr Dixon, who was recently appointed to a Lectureship in Basic Dental Sciences, has been awarded more than £200,000 to carry out her studies.

She was one of just 21 successful applicants to be funded by the scheme, which provides support for clinical and non-clinical researchers in their first steps towards establishing themselves as independent principal investigators.

In the first part of the project, Dr Dixon will analyse whether cleft palate results if p63 levels are maintained.

In addition, she will introduce a mutation in p63 that has been shown to underlie cleft palate using gene-targeting technology. This strategy will allow her to investigate the downstream effects of this mutation on other proteins involved in palatal development.

In the short term, the results of this research will help to dissect the role of p63 in normal and abnormal development of the palate. In the longer term, this information may help in the design of therapies to improve the way in which clinicians manage patients affected by cleft palate.
-end-
Notes for editors:

Recent successes in understanding cleft palate have included the analysis of human syndromes in which cleft palate occurs as one of the defining features. In this regard, mutations that affect the function of p63 have been demonstrated to underlie five distinct developmental disorders in man, a subset of which includes cleft palate.

The amount of the MRC New Investigator Award is £206,854.

For further information, contact:

Aeron Haworth
Press Office
The University of Manchester

Tel: 44-161-275-8383
Email: aeron.haworth@manchester.ac.uk

University of Manchester

Related Cleft Palate Articles from Brightsurf:

For children with cleft lip and palate, no major psychological impact of repeated surgeries
Children born with cleft lip and cleft palate (CLP) commonly undergo multiple surgical procedures between infancy and adolescence.

Children born with a cleft lip unlikely to be genetically inclined to do poorly at school
New research has found that children born with a cleft lip, either with or without a cleft palate, are not likely to be genetically predisposed to do less well at school than their peers.

Skin and non-adhesive cells found to play pivotal role in the formation of fin
Human fingers are sculpted from a primitive pad-like structure during embryonic development.

Speech impairment in five-year-old international adoptees with cleft palate
In a group of internationally adopted children with cleft lip and/or palate, speech at age five is impaired compared to a corresponding group of children born in Sweden, a study shows.

Variation in the shape of speech organs influences language evolution
Why do speech sounds vary across languages? Does the shape of our speech organs play a role?

The mystery behind cleft palate and lips: Study shines a light on genetic factors
Researchers found more than 100 new genes that could lead to the development of cleft lip and palates.

Salamanders chew with their palate
'According to the textbooks, amphibians swallow their prey whole, but we have been able to refute this,' says Dr.

New technique uses umbilical cord stem cells for early repair of cleft palate
A technique using umbilical cord blood stem cells could be a promising new approach for repair of cleft palate in infants, reports a paper in The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Novel genome-wide association study risk loci for nonsyndromic orofacial clefts
At the 96th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR), held in conjunction with the IADR Pan European Regional (PER) Congress, Azeez Butali, University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA, gave an oral presentation titled 'Novel Genome-wide Association Study Risk Loci for Nonsyndromic Orofacial Clefts.'

In the gaping mouth of ancient crocodiles
A new study by a team of international experts, led by University of Witwatersrand PhD candidate Kathleen Dollman and Professor Jonah Choiniere published today in the American Museum Novitates, endeavoured to further explore the mouth of one of the earliest occurring and least understood groups of crocodilians, the shartegosuchids.

Read More: Cleft Palate News and Cleft Palate Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.