Plastic Surgery Foundation and The Smile Train Join Forces to Help Repair Children's Smiles

May 4, 2004
Together, these foundations have awarded nearly $300,000 in grants to physicians who are researching cleft lip and cleft palate disorders in children.

The Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation® (PSEF), the educational and research arm of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons® (ASPS), and The Smile Train announced today they have awarded nearly $300,000 in grants to physicians performing cleft lip and palate research through their Cleft Research Initiative, a three-year cleft lip/palate research program established in 2001.

"The program has given us a better understanding of the causes of clefts and helped us develop better evidence-based treatments � the outcomes have really exceeded our expectations," said PSEF President Allen Van Beek, MD. "These physicians have made tremendous discoveries, helping children born with the defect live more normal lives. One of our 2002 recipients has received an additional $300,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue research to develop a scarless cleft reconstruction technique � a project that might not have been possible without the Cleft Research Initiative grant. "

The Cleft Research Initiative provides funds to national and international physicians in various fields (plastic surgery, speech pathology, developmental biology, genetics, psychology, orthodontics) to investigate causes, treatments, and cures for cleft deformities.

Cleft lip/palate are congenital defects in the lip or roof of the mouth where tissue or bone do not properly fuse together. Children born with clefts may need the skills of several multi-disciplinary medical professionals to correct the problems associated with the defect.

In 2003, the program's final year, more than $100,000 in research grants were awarded to:


Sheena Reilly, PhD, professor, Speech Pathology Department, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Australia, received $20,000 to examine the feeding habits of children born with cleft lip and palate. Children born with cleft lip and palate are at high risk of developing feeding problems that if undetected or untreated can cause economic, health, and quality of life issues. Dr. Reilly's research is aimed at early detection and management of feeding problems.

Robert Tibesar, MD, otolaryngology resident, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., received $12,533 to examine the advantages of distraction osteogenesis (DO), a procedure that gradually lengthens bone/soft tissue through tension, over conventional techniques for cleft palate repair. Dr. Tibesar will test if DO significantly improves closure of the oral cavity, thereby improving feeding and speech without causing growth restrictions of the face � a problem that can occur with conventional techniques.


Chad Perlyn, MD, surgical resident, Division of Plastic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes Hospital, St. Louis, was awarded $20,000 for research regarding the role fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) mutations play in the development of cleft lip and palate. FGFR are membrane receptors responsible for cell count and cell differentiation during bone growth. Dr. Perlyn is currently conducting this research at Oxford University as part of his Rhodes Scholarship.

Damir Matic, MD, assistant professor, Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Western Ontario, Canada, was awarded $20,000 to examine the role muscle movement has on facial skeleton growth and development as it relates to cleft lip and palate and other defects.


Peter Farlie, PhD, biomedical researcher, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Royal Children's Hospital, Australia, was awarded $19,500 for his research to identify the gene(s) that cause cleft palate and other craniofacial anomalies commonly referred to as Pierre Robin sequence. Dr. Farlie's research will help identify the developmental sequence of cleft palate in Pierre Robin, allowing for early detection and prediction of recurrence rates in people with no family history of the disorder.

Mohammed Elahi, MD, fellow in plastic surgery, Temple University, Philadelphia, was awarded $12,500 to research the incidence and prevalence of cleft lip and palate in Pakistan. Dr. Elahi's project will determine risks factors associated with the defect and establish a classification system for cleft deformities in Pakistan.

"Through their dedicated research, these talented physicians are helping to provide us with a better understanding of the causes of cleft, as well as the possible preventions and cures," said Smile Train President Brian Mullaney. "The Smile Train is honored to support the work of these accomplished individuals."

Grant entries were evaluated on the scope and originality of the research, model and design of the project, and future clinical impact. Grant recipients will present their findings at Plastic Surgery 2004, the annual scientific meeting of the ASPS, PSEF, and the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS), October 9-13 in Philadelphia.

The Smile Train, an international children's charity launched in 1999, is dedicated to helping the millions of children in the world suffering from cleft lip and palate. Its comprehensive approach to the problem of clefts involves free surgery for children, free training for doctors, and research to find a cure. The Smile Train empowers surgeons and medical professionals in developing countries to meet the cleft care needs of their own communities. One hundred percent of donations go directly towards programs that help children with clefts - The Smile Train's Board of Trustees pays for all non-program expenses, such as overhead, administration and fundraising.

ASPS, founded in 1931, is the largest plastic surgery organization in the world and the foremost authority on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. For referrals to ABPS-certified plastic surgeons in your area and to learn more about cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, call the ASPS at (888) 4-PLASTIC (1-888-475-2784) or visit