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USC researchers identify alternate pathway that leads to palate development
Date:8/11/2008

(Los Angeles CA) Researchers at the University Of Southern California School Of Dentistry have uncovered another clue behind the causes of cleft palate and the process that leads to palate formation.

Cleft palate is one of the most common congenital birth defects, occurring in one out of every 700 live births. Clefts are more common in children of American Indian, Hispanic or Asian descent. While males are twice as likely to have a cleft lip, females are twice as likely to have a cleft palate.

But genes are not the only factor influencing the malformation says, Yang Chai, professor and director of the USC School of Dentistry's Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology.

Researchers around the world believe that most cases of cleft lip and cleft palate are caused by an interaction of genetic and environmental factors; however, a specific cause may not be discovered for every baby.

Growth factors responsible for development, including palate and tooth formation, have more than one way to direct cells to make changes, says Chai.

The Discovery by the USC team is spotlighted in the August 12 issue of Development Cell.

Chai's group, which includes fellow CCMB researchers Xun Xu, Jun Han, Yoshihiro Ito and Pablo Bringas Jr., has been specifically scrutinizing the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-) family's role in palate formation problems.

The TGF- s are not only involved in palate formation, they plays an important development role all over the body. They work by binding to cell surface receptors and activating signaling molecules within the cell. These signaling molecules then travel to the nucleus, the cell's control center, and prompt DNA expression in order to spur changes in the cell.

"For instance, we've learned that when someone has a haploid insufficiency and is missing one copy of the TGF- gene, he or she is more vulnerable to environmental insults that can cause cleft p
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Contact: Angelica Urquijo
urquijo@usc.edu
213-740-6568
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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