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Anencephaly is one of the most severe types of neural tube defects (NTDs). The neural tube is the developing structure that becomes the brain, skull and spine. NTDs in general are one of the most common birth defects, occurring in approximately 1 in 1,000 live births in the United States. Anencephaly occurs when the top, or cephalic portion, of the neural tube does not close properly during fetal development. This results in a partial or complete absence of the brain and skull. If carried to term, babies with anencephaly typically die during delivery or shortly thereafter. Currently, there is no cure or treatment for anencephaly and the cause is not known. It is strongly suspected that anencephaly and other NTDs are due to a combination of multiple genetic and environmental factors.
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The Duke Molecular Physiology Institute (DMPI), formerly the Duke Center for Human Genetics, is currently conducting a genetic study called "The Hereditary Basis of Neural Tube Defects" to determine the causes of anencephaly and other NTDs. By studying families with anencephaly and other NTDs, we hope to identify the genes that contribute to the development of the neural tube. We hope this research will eventually lead to more accurate genetic counseling and risk assessment, improved treatments, better prevention methods, and possibly, a cure.
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The DMPI is recruiting families in which a current pregnancy or newborn baby has been diagnosed with anencephaly. Participation in the study will in no way affect a mother or baby's health or a family's decision-making process. Participation is completely voluntary and free and does not require travel to Duke University Medical Center. Participation involves the following:
- Speaking with the study coordinator by phone to discuss the study and complete a family medical, pregnancy and environmental history interview.
- Providing a DNA sample from the pregnancy or newborn that has been diagnosed with anencephaly. This can be coordinated with a woman's obstetrician, genetic counselor or neonatologist in a way that is complementary to the care that the mother, pregnancy or newborn
- Providing blood samples for DNA research from both parents when possible.
- Giving permission to the research team to review medical records pertaining to anencephaly.
If you are interested in learning more about this anencephaly research or in participating, please contact the study coordinator, Heidi Cope, via one of the following methods:
Phone: (919) 684-0655
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Yes, we accept donations to help with the research and truly appreciate every penny!
Donations can be made online at www.giftrecords.duke.edu. Click on
"Make a Gift Now" and then "Make a Credit Card Gift." Under Designations
click on the field called "Add an unlisted designation." Donors must
write-in 391-2359. There is also a place toward the bottom where donors
can dedicate the gift.
Or checks can be mailed to:
Duke Molecular Physiology Institute
NTD Research Fund
Durham, NC 27710
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News About NTD Research, 2012
News About NTD Research, Summer 2010
News About NTD Research, Winter 2004
Dr. Ashely-Koch was interviewed about a cluster of babies born with neural tube defects in Washington State.
Centers for Disease Control National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Anencephaly Information Page: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
The following resources are family-based support links or chat rooms. These sites have been forwarded to us by various families who found one or more of them to
Please note that the staff at the DMPI has not evaluated these sites or groups for accuracy or quality of information. Secondly, these sites do not reflect any personal opinions or suggestions of the staff at Duke.
We do suggest that you forward any questions about medical content to your health care provider.
The Miss Foundation
Anencephaly Blessings from Above - ABFA
A Heartbreaking Choice Yahoo Group
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
Anencephaly Angels on Facebook
Anencephaly.info on Facebook
Baby Center Anencephaly Support Group
A Heartbreaking Choice
Anencephaly - A Global Health Network Support Group
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