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Mechanisms of Environmental Effects in Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Development and Birth Defects

Translational Genomics Research Branch
Division of Extramural Research

The goal of this concept is to encourage research into the biologic mechanisms through which environmental exposures and nutritional deficiencies affect dental, oral, and craniofacial development and cause associated birth defects, including investigations into the mechanisms behind gene-environmental interactions.

Non-syndromic dental, oral, and craniofacial birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate, are common and have complex etiologies. Inroads are being made in understanding more about genetic factors involved in embryonic development of dental, oral, and craniofacial structures, but much less is known about environmental influences [Levi et al, 2012; Ludwig et al, 2012; Marazita, 2012; Parada & Chai, 2012; Sharma et al, 2013].

Epidemiologic studies suggest that maternal nutrition (such as folate and zinc) and use of alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy affect risk of having a child with cleft lip and/or palate [Molina-Solana et al, 2013]. Maternal nutrition and use of tobacco during pregnancy may also affect risk of having a child with craniosynostosis [Hackshaw et al, 2011; Carmichael et al, 2010].

Genomic studies suggest that the interplay of genetic and environmental factors may be important for some dental, oral, and craniofacial birth defects. For example, there is evidence of a statistical interaction between maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy and specific genes for cleft lip with or without cleft palate; certain genetic variants were associated with cleft lip with or without cleft palate only among women who smoked [Beaty et al, 2013].

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This page last updated: February 26, 2014