Research Studies

Research Studies Now Enrolling Subjects
The University of Iowa has a long history of studying craniofacial conditions, such as Cleft Lip and Palate (CL/P). Researchers are currently investigating the causes of clefting by looking at how genetics, family history and the environment may influence the risk of having a child with CL/P. We are also interested in how quality of life, school and wellbeing may be affected by having CL/P. Studies related to acid reflux and healing for patients with clefts are being developed in addition to investigating language and brain function in infants with oral clefts.
Many patients and families receiving care in the University of Iowa Craniofacial Clinic will be 
approached about participating in research studies. An overview of the current research being conducted at UIHC can be found below. Participation in research studies is always voluntary and your decisions to participate in our studies will not affect your clinical care. 
 
Questions
If you have any questions related to the studies being conducted at the University of Iowa please contact Nichole Nidey by phone at 319-353-4365 or email: nichole-nidey@uiowa.edu

Genetic Research
As a result of decades of genetic research using DNA from individuals with cleft lip and/or palate, unaffected family members and animal research (mice & Zebrafish) the research community both at the University of Iowa and other institutions have helped us better understand the causes of clefting by identifying genes and environmental exposures that could influence the chances of having a child with CL/P. While we have come a long way in understanding the causes of clefting, there is still a lot to learn. Currently the University of Iowa is conducting research using human & animal DNA. There are many tests researchers use to study genes, such as Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS), Whole Exome Studies (WES) and Copy Number Variation (CNV) studies. GWAS have recently been completed by researchers at the University of Iowa. GWAS searches through the whole genome, or all of a person’s genetic material to identify genes involved in developing cleft lip and/or palate. GWAS allows researchers to identify the small genetic differences between people with CL/P and without CL/P. There is large scale study currently underway using information found in GWAS to identify regions of the genome that have been amplified or deleted which can cause variations in how a gene is expressed, which is called Copy Number Variation studies. University of Iowa researchers are also using WES to identify rare genetic differences or variants in individuals who have CL/P. The studies described above can be completed using DNA from saliva, blood and tissue samples. We are currently enrolling individuals with CL/P along with their family members in our studies. 

Language and Brain Function
In 2014 the University of Iowa started a study to research the brain structure and language function of infants with CL/P. The study is currently enrolling male infants under the age of two months old who have not had any surgical procedures. Infants enrolled in the study will participate in cognitive & behavioral testing along with a MRI, hearing test and vocal recordings. The purpose of this research study is to learn more about how babies think and behave within the first few months following their birth. We would like to know more about the early speech and learning skills and behavior of babies born with a cleft of their lip and palate so that we can better predict problems that may arise at later ages.

Gastroesophageal Reflux in Children with Cleft Palate
Clinicians and researchers at the University of Iowa are planning a study investigating acid reflux in 
individuals with CL/P. The goal of this study is to better understand the incidence rate of acid reflux in individuals with CL/P and how acid reflux may impact healing and surgical outcomes. There have not been any studies to our knowledge that have investigated this and we hope the results from this study will help improve patient outcomes in the future.

Quality of Life and Psychosocial Research 
In 2014 researchers at the University of Iowa started the Quality of Life and Psychological Status of Individuals with Oral Clefts study. The purpose of this project is to understand how having CL/P may affect the psychological wellbeing of the individual with the cleft as well as their family members. This project is being conducted at five craniofacial clinics in the United States and Canada. Data collected from this study will help the University of Iowa Craniofacial clinic assess their patient needs and by contributing data to Americleft will add to the existing knowledge of how having CL/P my impact individuals and families. The study is currently enrolling individuals age 3, 7, 13, and 21-25 years old along with their parents.