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Michael initially trained as a dentist at the University of Manchester, obtaining his BDS in 1983. Subsequently, Michael completed a PhD in developmental biology at Manchester in 1988, thereafter undertaking post-doctoral training in human genetics at Saint Mary’s Hospital, London. Michael is currently Professor of Dental Genetics at the University of Manchester with research interests in normal and abnormal facial development with particular emphasis on cleft lip and cleft palate. 

Michael’s research group has played a central role in the identification of the genetic mutations underlying a number of human facial malformation syndromes including Treacher Collins syndrome, Papillon-Lefevre syndrome, Van der Woude/popliteal pterygium syndrome, amelogenesis imperfecta, and dentine dysplasia. This research is funded by major grants from Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, USA. 

Michael’s research has been recognised by the award of several national and international prizes including the prestigious International Association for Dental Research Craniofacial Biology Research Award, 2001. In 2003, Michael was awarded the Fellowship in Dental Surgery by election, from the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Michael takes an active interest in communicating research findings to patient groups

Research interests

Facial malformations are among the most common and distressing birth defects affecting man. Although the causes of such problems are complex, analysis of these conditions provides opportunities to identify the underlying genetic factors, to unravel the processes contributing to normal facial development, and to analyse how these are disrupted in birth defects. 

Michael Dixon’s research group is playing a central role in analysing the complex pathways that underlie development of face by integrating the techniques of human genetics and developmental biology. The group has identified a number of different genes that are important in facial development. Recently, in collaboration with colleagues in the USA, Michael’s group has shown that a common form of cleft lip and palate, which causes problems with eating, hearing and speech, results from problems in a protein called interferon regulatory factor 6 (IRF6). 

The group has subsequently shown that IRF6, working together with other proteins, is involved in ensuring that different parts of the face fuse together correctly during development. The results of on-going research are helping scientists and clinicians to understand how the face develops correctly. These advances have already impacted directly on the clinical management of affected individuals and their families and, in the longer term, may help to inform the design of treatments for cleft lip and cleft palate. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures


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