About 1 in 28 babies born in the United States is born with a birth defect. A birth defect is defined aas an abnormality of structure or function present at birht which results in a defect inthe quality of life, or, in the worse case, in fatality. There are numerous genetic and evironmental factors that can cause birth defects. The interests of the Ahlgren Lab are to examine the interactions of genetic and environmental factors in the development of the craniofacial region. The developing head and face are the product of the interactions of a select set of cells during development. Birth defects which affect the brain, especially the prosencephalon, are often linked to defects in the developing face. This indicates that similar tissues and/or signals are needed for both these tissues to develop properly, and further suggests that they might influence each other during development.
The environmental exposure primarily studied in the laboratory is fetal alcohol exposure.