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August 26, 1999

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NIH Taps Hopkins Craniofacial Program as "Center of Discovery", Awards $7.5 Million Grant

Hopkins Team to Study Genetics of Craniofacial Malformation

What is the likelihood that a baby will be born with a cleft palate? How will smoking or a glass of wine consumed during pregnancy affect a fetus's skull development? Johns Hopkins researchers will use a $7.5 million research grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (a division of the National Institutes of Health) to answer these questions and others.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Craniofacial Development and Disorders was selected by the NIDCR as one of six Comprehensive Oral Health Research Centers of Discovery. Led by principal investigator and professor of pediatrics Ethylin Jabs, M.D., Hopkins researchers will further their knowledge of normal craniofacial development and the pathogenesis of craniofacial malformations such as oral clefting and craniosynostosis (premature fusing of the skull bones that often requires surgery to prevent neurological problems).

"Cleft lip, cleft palate and craniosynostosis are among the 10 most common malformations detected in newborns and represent a major health issue because of their associated medical, surgical and psychosocial implications," Jabs said. "By increasing our knowledge of these disorders, we can develop better treatment, screening and prevention strategies."

The Hopkins team will study the biological mechanisms through which alcohol consumption causes craniofacial malformation in animal models. They also will examine the molecular biology, genetics and treatment of craniosynostosis in animal models and humans, and identify susceptibility genes for oral clefting.

Individuals with craniofacial disorders often carry significant psychosocial burdens. Hopkins researchers will study the interactions of children with craniofacial malformation and those whose skulls developed normally to understand how and why some children with physical deformities cope better than others.

The Hopkins Center for Craniofacial Development and Disorders research will be funded at $1.5 million per year for five years. The Center is multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional with collaborative ties to universities, research institutions, hospitals and patient support groups in 14 states and seven countries.

Relevant Web sites:

Hopkins Center for Craniofacial Development and Disorders -- http://omie.med.jhmi.edu/craniofacial/
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research -- http://www.nidr.nih.gov/index.htm

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