Understanding the genes that cause cleft palate & lip
Genetics is the study of genes. Genes are the smallest unit of heredity (heredity is the passing of genes from one generation to the next). Each cell in the human body contains genes, which contain the "blueprint" for everything in our bodies, such as our height, hair color, skin color, eye color, etc.
Genetic inheritance means that a child's features are "inherited," or passed from parent to child. Your child may have inherited their cleft from one or both parents.
There are two types of inheritance:
- Single gene inheritance: A feature appears because of a single gene carried by one parent
- Multifactorial inheritance: A feature appears because of a number of genetic and nongenetic factors, such as alcohol, drugs, environmental factors, etc.
Other factors can also occur during pregnancy to cause cleft lip and palate. Sometimes a group of problems appear together in newborn babies. These groups are called syndromes. A cleft lip or palate may be only one part of a larger syndrome. Like clefts, syndromes may be a result of a single gene or multifactorial inheritance.
The exact cause of cleft is often unknown. The geneticist or genetic counselor can help you try to find the reason for your child's cleft. Your geneticist will also discuss your risk of having another child with cleft.