Craniofacial Anomalies Program Research and Innovation

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Contact the Cleft Lip and Palate and Craniofacial Center

Our pediatric craniofacial specialists are engaged in research that holds great promise for improving the diagnosis and treatment of craniofacial anomalies in children. Some of our current research projects include:

  • Evaluating facial growth in various craniofacial anomalies in children

  • Determining the molecular causes of craniofacial and vascular anomalies in children

  • Improvement of long-term outcomes for children suffering from head trauma

Boston Children's Hospital's research program is the most prolific at any pediatric hospital in the world. In particular, the physicians in our Craniofacial Anomalies Program are committed to engaging in basic science and translational research that shapes widespread understanding of—and treatments for—deformities of the head and facial bones. Our clinicians are searching for new insights into:

  • How and why craniofacial anomalies occur

  • What role genetics play in the development of certain deformities

  • What surgical treatments are most effective in removing and reducing craniofacial anomalies and helping children lead healthy, fulfilling lives

Our Craniofacial Anomalies Program physicians—who are also members of the Harvard Medical School faculty—conduct ongoing research in Children’s laboratories. They also collaborate with scientists at Boston's universities, other biomedical facilities and fellow leading medical centers. 

Some of our researchers (and their individual project areas) include:

  • Shelly Abramowicz, DMD, MPH, a plastic surgery researcher at Children's, who is evaluating surgical solutions for cleft lip and cleft palate and temporomandibular joint dysfunction
  • John Meara, MD, DMD, MBA, Boston Children's Plastic Surgeon-in-Chief, who is analyzing the genetic, phenotypic, cognitive and behavioral aspects of craniosynostosis
  • John B. Mulliken, MD, plastic surgeon and co-director of Boston Children's Vascular Anomalies Center, who is working to document the recurrence and progression rates of various vascular malformations that affect pediatric patients
  • Bonnie Padwa, MD, DMD, Boston Children's Oral Surgeon-in-Chief, who is assessing facial growth patterns in children with several types of craniofacial anomaly

Clinical trials at Boston Children's


Children’s is known for pioneering some of the most effective surgeries, diagnostic procedures and other key techniques in repairing craniofacial anomalies. A significant part of our success comes from our commitment to research—and to advancing the frontiers of pediatric medicine by conducting clinical trials.

Children’s conducts hundreds of clinical trials at any given time. Clinical trials are studies that may involve:

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of a new drug therapy
  • Testing a new diagnostic procedure or device
  • Examining a new treatment method for a particular disease
  • Taking a closer look at the causes and progression of specific conditions

While children must meet strict criteria in order to be eligible for a clinical trial, your child may be eligible to take part in a study. Before considering this option, you should be sure to:

  • Consult with your child’s treating physician and treatment team
  • Gather as much information as possible about the specific course of action outlined in the trial
  • Do your own research about the latest breakthroughs relating to your child’s condition

If your physician recommends that your child participate in a clinical trial, you can feel confident that the plan detailed for that study represents the best and most innovative care available. Taking part in a clinical trial at Children’s is entirely voluntary. Our team will be sure to fully address any questions you may have, and you may remove your child from the medical study at any time.

Search current and upcoming clinical trials at Boston Children’s                    

Search the National Institutes of Health’s list of clinical trials taking place around the world


Did you know? Boston Children's Stem Cell Program is using tumor cells to better understand hemangiomas


Boston Children's surgical researcher Joyce Bischoff, MD, who is also an affiliate member of the hospital's Stem Cell Program, and her research team are hard at work in the lab. Their mission? To isolate stem cells found in infantile hemangiomas and use them to understand how—and why—the cells create such disorganized, abnormal blood vessels. Learn more about their research.


Boston Children's study reveals role of subtle mutation in cleft lip and cleft palate


A slight mutation impacting the epigenomethe combined set of factors that help dictate gene activity—may be responsible not only for the occurrence of cleft lip and cleft palate, but for inherited intellectual disability, as well. A study led by Yang Shi, PhD, of Boston Children's Division of Newborn Medicine, has exposed the mutation's influence. Learn more about the study.


The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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