Scientists say they have gotten closer to understanding the way palates form, which could ultimately lead to a breakthrough in the prevention of cleft palate.
A research team at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry studied the role of the transforming growth factor beta family genes in palate and tooth development.
These genes operate throughout the body, signaling molecules within cells to move to the nucleus and instigate DNA expression.
Study leader Yang Chai said that further study in this area could have significant implications for congenital birth defects and body malformations.
"When someone has a haploid insufficiency and is missing one copy of the [transforming growth factor beta] gene, he or she is more vulnerable to environmental insults that can cause cleft palate, such as drugs, smoking and alcohol," he said.
A total of one out of every 600 babies born in the U.S. are affected by cleft lip or cleft palate, according to the Cleft Palate Foundation.
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