University of Dundee University of Dundee
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7 June 2011

Dundee dental experts leading cleft research

The University of Dundee Dental School is set to spearhead a cutting-edge European initiative on research into craniofacial abnormalities - such as cleft palate - and associated health inequalities in Europe.

Professor Peter Mossey, Associate Dean for Research in the Dental School, has recently received an European Science Foundation (ESF) grant of approximately €450,000 (Euro) for the 'ESF Network for Orofacial Clefts Research, Prevention and Treatment'.

Orofacial clefts are birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate where the top lip or roof of the mouth does not form properly.

'This research programme builds on a previous multi-million Euro and multi-centre collaborative research initiative, EUROCRAN (European collaboration on craniofacial anomalies) which has yielded new insights into genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the cause of orofacial clefts,' said Professor Mossey.

'This work means that for the first time a major effort will be made towards the ultimate scientific and humanitarian objective - primary prevention of orofacial clefts.'

The effects of a cleft of lip and / or palate on an individual’s speech, hearing, appearance and psychology can lead to adverse outcomes for health and social integration. Care requires a multidisciplinary approach from birth to adulthood, involving a range of disciplines, for example plastic surgery, speech and language therapy, counselling and dentistry.

Approximately one in 700 live births is affected, with prevalence varying according to geography and ethnicity. In Scotland the birth prevalence of cleft palate is amongst the highest recorded, along with Finland, and Canada; and lowest in Africa and parts of Latin America. The highest recorded rates of cleft lip are in Asia and parts of Latin America; the lowest in Africa and Southern Europe.

There is a very high infant mortality rate among children born with orofacial clefts in parts of the developing world such as India and sub-Saharan Africa.

The grant awarded will facilitate a research network which has received support from research member organisations in Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland as well as the Medical Research Council in the UK.

The network will be launched at an event in Strasbourg on Thursday June 9th.

The ongoing research work, the facilities and the expertise at the Dental School in Dundee, which is a designated World Health Organisation collaborating centre for craniofacial anomalies, will be an integral part of the European research network.

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