Doctors and scientists in the Craniofacial Center are working to find the causes of craniofacial conditions. We also develop new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat these conditions.

Research teams at Seattle Children’s bring together experts from many fields. This gives us the best chance to make new discoveries that might benefit your child.

We receive more research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) than any other craniofacial center in the United States.

Research on Cleft Lip and Palate

We study isolated cleft lip and palate, as well as complex conditions that include clefts — gaps in part of the face or head.

Current research focuses on:

  • Causes of clefting and possible ways to prevent it
  • Measuring results of treatment for clefting
  • Ways to monitor a baby’s health after cleft lip repair
  • Obstructive sleep apnea in babies with Robin sequence
  • Learning differences in children with clefts compared to children without clefts

Learn more about research on cleft lip and palate at Seattle Children’s.

Craniosynostosis Research

Our researchers are studying causes of craniosynostosis, surgical results and long-term outcomes for children with this condition. Craniosynostosis causes the soft fibrous seams (sutures) in the skull to close too early.

Our researchers are working to:

  • Find changes in genes and genetic pathways that cause craniosynostosis
  • Create a library of 3-D images to better measure the results of surgery
  • Understand how craniosynostosis affects learning, attention and behavior
  • Define a standard way to diagnose metopic craniosynostosis
  • Study genetic causes of midface hypoplasia
  • Identify the symptoms associated with specific changes in genes

Learn more about craniosynostosis research at Seattle Children’s.

Research on Undersized Jaws and Ears (Craniofacial Microsomia and Microtia)

Our researchers are studying craniofacial microsomia (CFM) and microtia (small, abnormally shaped ears).

We work to:

  • Standardize how CFM is classified and treated
  • Study CFM’s impact on social skills and learning
  • Find genetic and environmental factors that cause undersized ears
  • Create a system to describe and rate the physical traits of microtia

Learn more about research on undersized jaws and ears at Seattle Children’s.

FACIAL National Research Network

Seattle Children’s doctors helped start a national research network focused on CFM. Our goals are to:

  • Compare results of treatment for children with this condition
  • Develop standards to guide care

The network is called the Facial Asymmetry Collaborative for Interdisciplinary Analysis and Learning (FACIAL).

Learn more about work with FACIAL in the Heike lab.

CORE Research

The Craniofacial Outcomes Research and Epidemiology and Etiology (CORE) group connects many researchers at Seattle Children's. They work together to better understand craniofacial conditions and improve treatment results for patients and families.

Investigators draw on each other’s expertise. Their fields range from epidemiology to genetics to 3-D facial imaging.

CORE also helps researchers design and carry out studies.

SANTA: Precise Measurement of Craniofacial Malformations

With high-resolution imaging technologies, researchers at Seattle Children’s study how a single gene, or an environmental factor like a vitamin, affects the risk of having a craniofacial disorder. Scientists also study combinations of risk factors.

Advanced imaging at the Small Animal Tomographic Analysis (SANTA) facility allows careful evaluation of physical traits (phenotypes) in animals. Studies in animals with specific craniofacial defects help us better understand the basis of craniofacial malformations in people.

Understanding Facial Form

Seattle Children’s doctors are using 3-D photography and images made by X-rays and other energy waves to build a library of data about normal craniofacial anatomy. This is called the Craniofacial Features Normative Database.

Using this information, we can better understand the events that lead to craniofacial conditions. This is the basis for improving diagnosis and treatment. We hope that one day we can prevent these conditions.

Participate in Research

What we learn from our families in clinic helps our research. Likewise, our research helps us provide the most effective care to your family.

The close link between our clinical and research efforts helps make Seattle Children's a leader in treating craniofacial conditions.

Learn about how and why to participate in research or clinical trials.

Ways to Help

Private donations help our researchers launch studies that could lead to lifesaving treatments. Email us to learn about supporting the Craniofacial Center’s research.