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Michael Cunningham, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Pediatrics
Research Affiliate, Center on Human Development and Disability
Center for Tissue & Cell Sciences
Seattle Children's Research Institute
M/S C9S-5 1900 9th Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

Dr. Cunningham

Dr. Cunningham and his lab group use animal models and human cell lines to study the molecular and developmental pathogenesis of human malformations. Their major field of study is the pathogenesis of craniosynostosis. Syndromic craniosynostosis is a hereditary developmental condition that can lead to a variety of problems including increased intracranial pressure associated with brain injury, airway obstruction, and skull malformations requiring extensive surgical correction. To understand the biology behind premature suture fusion, Cunningham and colleagues are conducting cellular and molecular studies with human skull cells from patients with craniosynostosis.

Current work in the Cunningham lab focuses on the molecular and developmental etiology of isolated single suture craniosynostosis. More common than syndromic forms, single-suture craniosynostosis occurs in approximately 1 in 2500 births. Cunningham and colleagues are investigating the role of mutations and genetic variability in the pathogenesis of this group of diseases.  Using modern techniques of molecular biology, mutational analysis, expression analysis, and cell biology, the pathogenesis of these complex disorders is investigated. Other research deals with the principal genetic cause and the downstream effects of these genetic changes. Future research will investigate the relationship between genetic variability and the structural and neurocognitive outcomes within this population of children. In parallel with human studies, mouse models of syndromic craniosynostosis are being used to investigate the developmental sequelae of craniosynostosis mutations in order to provide information useful in clinical applications. The long-term goal is to develop a multidisciplinary research team focusing on many facets of these complex disorders to allow translation of basic discoveries to patients.

Dr. Cuningham's Department of Pediatrics web page

CHDD Outlook article on craniosynostosis and plagiocephaly (2005)

University of Washington • Center on Human Development and Disability Box 357920 • Seattle WA 98195-7920 USA • 206-543-7701 •