Since the Cleft Collective was established in 2012, we have built one of the world’s largest banks of biological samples from children born with a cleft and their parents. We are now seeking to take advantage of this impressive endeavour by generating data on the genetic makeup, or “genotype”, of these individuals. This will enable us to achieve a better understanding of both the genetic and non-genetic (environmental) factors that cause clefts and the psychological, social, and health issues children born with a cleft might experience. An improved understanding of these causes will be vital in helping us to achieve our long-term goals, and it will also provide a valuable resource to other researchers from around the world. Findings from this work will be directly relevant to the large global community of people born with a cleft (approximately 1 in every 700 births), but also to the needs of people affected by other types of scarring, who face many of the same challenges.
This project compares the genetic samples held in the Cleft Collective Gene Bank with the DNA of mothers and their children recruited to the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to pinpoint whether there are specific genes responsible for cleft lip and palate. The study will also shine light on how environmental factors, such as smoking, alcohol intake and diet increase the risk of a child being born with a cleft by using genes instead of the environmental factors themselves. This will help inform preventative measures in the future.