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Breakthrough for babies born with severe cleft palates after experiments at ISIS
Date:3/18/2010

Scientists working on a treatment for babies born with cleft palates have made a promising breakthrough and the first clinical trials are planned for early next year. Clefts are the most common birth defect in Britain, with one in every 700 babies affected; currently in severe cases radical surgery is required to correct the problem, and in addition future complications can occur as the child grows into an adult. The preliminary results on a hydrogel material studied using the Science and Technology Facilities Council's ISIS neutron source show treatment for severe cleft palates could be carried out without the need for complex surgery.

Cleft palates are currently repaired by surgically repositioning the available palatal mucosa, the tissue structure at the roof of the mouth, in order to cover the gap in the palate. However, if the cleft defect is too wide there may be insufficient local tissue available to close the gap without undertaking quite radical surgery. It is these severe cases that can cause future complications for infants as they develop into adults particularly with speech and facial growth problems.

A team of researchers at the University of Oxford, the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxfordshire, and the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States has used ISIS to look at hydrogel on the molecular level to try and gather enough information to develop materials that could be used for a potential new treatment.

"ISIS provided us with the high level of structural detail we needed to assess the new material. It gives unique and accurate results that we can't get with any other technique," says Professor David Bucknall from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The new potential treatment for these severe cases involves inserting a small plate made of an anisotropic hydrogel material (similar to that used in contact lenses) under the mucosa of the roof of the mouth of the patient.

The hydrogel graduall
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Contact: Lucy Stone
lucy.stone@stfc.ac.uk
44-123-544-5627
Science and Technology Facilities Council
Source:Eurekalert

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