The study revealed that facial development is not as genetically pre-determined as many had thought, but results from interactions among neighboring tissues.
In experiments with chick and quail embryos, the scientists discovered that a small region of tissue at the front edge of what in humans would be the upper lip, dubbed FEZ, controls development of the upper half of the face. They found that FEZ growth signals could influence development of this part of the face over a longer time than expected.
The research suggests that a human embryos facial tissues remain responsive to its immediate environment for about nine weeks, or through most of the first trimester. Researchers had thought that human facial form was established and unalterable by about five weeks.
The new findings may explain the puzzling fact that a single kind of environmental insult, such as maternal exposure to alcohol during pregnancy, can cause a wide range of facial defects in the developing embryo. The timing of the insult may be the deciding factor, said Jill Helms, PhD, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at UCSF and senior author on a paper reporting the research.
Helms expects the prolonged period of plasticity will allow face-saving surgeries or treatments.
If you follow the field of in utero surgery, you can see that its just a matter of time before we are able to repair facial damage in the fi
Contact: Wallace Ravven
University of California - San Francisco