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Researchers pinpoint genetic pathway of rare facial malformation in children
Date:5/3/2012

Researchers at Seattle Children's Research Institute and their collaborators have discovered a pair of defective genes that cause a rare congenital malformation syndrome that can make it impossible for the child to breathe or eat properly without reparative surgery. In a study led by Michael L. Cunningham, MD, PhD, medical director of the Seattle Children's Hospital's Craniofacial Center, a research team pinpointed two genes known as PLCB4 and GNAI3 in a genetic pathway that affects children with auriculocondylar syndrome (ACS). ACS is a rare disorder in which a child's bottom jaw develops as an upper jaw and, in some cases, incorrectly fuses to the base of the skull.

As part of the study, the DNA of five children with similar facial features characteristic of ACS was sequenced. Cunningham and his colleague Mark J. Rieder, PhD (University of Washington) used exome sequencing, selectively sequencing those regions of the patients' DNA believed to constitute the majority of disease-causing mutations. The study, to be published in the May edition of American Journal of Human Genetics, is one of the first genomic studies to identify causative mutations in two genes for the same disorder in the same pathway in a single analysis, Dr. Cunningham said.

While children with ACS have normal cognitive development, severe cases may require an immediate tracheostomy, feeding tubes, and ultimately extensive facial reconstructive surgery to allow them to eat and breathe properly.

"Although ACS is rare, our findings suggest that these genes may also play a role in more common disorders of the jaw and ears," said Dr. Cunningham, who is also chief of the division of craniofacial medicine and professor of pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. "It's possible that more common jaw problems, like the lower jaw abnormality known as Robin sequence and other skull and facial abnormalities suc
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Contact: Mary Guiden
mary.guiden@seattlechildrens.org
206-987-7334
Seattle Children's
Source:Eurekalert  

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