The Genetic Factors in Birth Defects Study is a multicenter, multidisciplinary study led by NICHD to identify genetic risk factors for a wide range of major birth defects. The collaborating institutions are NICHD, The National Human Genome Research Institute, The New York State Department of Health, and The University of Iowa. The New York State Congenital Malformations Registry has identified approximately 13,000 children who have major birth defects and suitable unaffected controls from among all New York births. This information has been linked to blood spots retained after testing in the newborn period. DNA has been extracted and has been used to test for genetic variants associated with these birth defects.
A variety of defects has been selected and analyzed using a candidate gene approach. To date genetic variants (single nucleotide polymorphisms) have been identified and the results reported in the literature for:
Additional defects are currently being examined. Because of the very large number of affected children included in this study, it has been possible to examine relatively rare conditions such as non-syndromic omphalocele.
The large number of cases has also enabled the group to make substantial contributions to consortia performing genome wide association studies. The group is currently collaborating in one such study examining craniosynostosis and another examining pyloric stenosis. The group is interested in exploring collaborations with investigators conducting such studies.
The group has recently demonstrated the feasibility of conducting genome wide studies of copy number variants using DNA obtained from blood spots. This has opened a whole new area of investigation. Because of the very large number of subjects available for study, the group has sufficient numbers to look for copy number variants associated with rare defects. Many such birth defects are now being tested for the presence of copy number variants.
James Mills, M.D., M.S.
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