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The Genetics of Clefts

April 7, 2011

The causes of cleft palate and lip are complex.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Preventing cleft palates…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

About one in 700 babies is born with a cleft lip or palate. Clefts are treatable with surgery, but researchers are trying to unlock the keys to prevention. Epidemiologist Terry Beaty of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says that a complex interaction of genes and environment is probably responsible for clefts.

TERRY BEATY (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Schools of Public Health):

It’s going to be multiple genes, possible interactions with environmental factors and between the genes. It looks like the only significant evidence we’ve found so far at the genome wide level is when you consider interactions, when the mother smokes or drinks, or doesn’t take enough vitamins.

HIRSHON:

She adds that clefts are usually formed before a woman knows she’s pregnant, so prevention efforts should focus on educating women who are considering pregnancy in the future. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.