NIH awards Boonshoft School of Medicine researchers $2.8 million to study craniofacial growth

May 12, 2015

Issue 5

To help orthodontists and physicians more accurately treat children who need orthodontic or other craniofacial interventions, a team of researchers from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and several other universities is conducting the largest study of craniofacial growth in different facial types in the world.

To help orthodontists and physicians more accurately treat children who need orthodontic or other craniofacial interventions, a team of researchers from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and several other universities is conducting the largest study of craniofacial growth in different facial types in the world.

The research team, which received a five-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will identify features on more than 30,000 images from 5,000 individuals, from birth to age 24, from nine growth studies. The researchers will collect data that will identify patterns of growth at the individual and population levels.

The researchers will use the results of the study to develop a web-based application that will provide orthodontists and surgeons precise diagnostic tools for evaluating the current facial size and shape of individual children and predict when and how much more that child’s face will grow.

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This will allow orthodontists to determine the best time to place braces on children, thus reducing the time they will have to wear them.

It will also help doctors treating children with abnormalities of the face or head caused by birth defects, disease or trauma to determine the ideal timing for treatment to ensure the best outcomes.

The research team includes experts from five universities and is led by coprincipal investigators Ramzi W. Nahhas, Ph.D., associate professor, Departments of Community Health and Psychiatry, WSU Boonshoft School of Medicine; and Heesoo Oh, associate professor, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, University of the Pacific. Nahhas is a biostatistician with expertise in longitudinal data analysis, including growth curve modeling. Oh is an academic and clinical orthodontist and associate director of the Craniofacial Research Instrumentation Laboratory at the University of the Pacific.

“This collection allows for an unprecedented opportunity to characterize craniofacial form in humans and develop clinically useful prediction tools,” Nahhas said. “Our hope is that the results of this research will improve clinicians’ ability to determine the optimal timing and duration of treatment for pediatric craniofacial patients.”

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Coinvestigators include Richard J. Sherwood, Ph.D., professor, Departments of Community Health and Pediatrics, WSU Boonshoft School of Medicine; Manish Valiathan, associate professor, Department of Orthodontics, and program director of the Surgical and Craniofacial Fellowship Program, Case Western Reserve University; and Kieran P. McNulty, associate professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota.

The results of this research will be made available via an easy-to-use and freely available web-based application.