Alexandre Vieira, DDS, PhD




614 Salk Hall
3501 Terrace Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

Associate Professor, Department of Oral Biology
School of Dental Medicine

Research Interests

  1. Genetics of Oral Facial Clefts:  Clefts of the lip and palate are common birth defects, affecting approximately one  in 700 births worldwide. The incidence rate is widely variable and is related to geographic origin.  An isolated oral-facial cleft includes clefts in the absence of any additional physical or cognitive deficits. The etiology of clefting is complex, with multiple genetic and environment influences.  To better understand the genetic etiology of this disease, our research develops in three fronts:
    • We use dental anomalies as an extended phenotype for clefts, with the goal to create new opportunities for gene identification of this disease.
    • We study the relationship between cancer susceptibility and risks for clefts.
    • We study, using zebrafish, how oxygen deprivation modulates craniofacial development.           
  2. Genetics of Caries Although caries is largely preventable, it remains the most common chronic disease of children age 5 to 17 years in the US, as well as in the rest of the world. In the US, caries is five times more common than asthma (59% versus 11%). Caries is an infectious localized disease that results in loss of minerals from the affected teeth, caused by organic acids that are originated from the microbial fermentation of carbohydrates. It is a multifactorial disease and is usually chronic. Caries is related to three essential interactive factors: the host (represented by teeth and saliva); the oral microbial flora; and the type of diet. The factors related to the host are under strong genetic control, but they are easily modified by the other factors (i.e., microbiota and diet). Twin studies have provided strong evidence for the role of inheritance in caries. There is complex etiologic heterogeneity with environmental factors, which appear to play a commanding role in susceptibility. By studying caries in populations that have a similar socio-economic level, cultural pressures, and access to dental care, we were able to identify genetic variants associated to caries susceptibility and we are now making progress toward identifying which variants have functional consequence.
  3. Genetics of Periodontal Diseases Periodontal diseases may occur at any age after eruption of teeth, affecting the permanent as well as the primary dentition. However, the disease is most common during adulthood and old age. Genetics is now recognized as the major etiologic factor. In addition to the most prevalent chronic type of these diseases, there is also an aggressive type. Periodontal diseases have also been associated with major systemic problems such as cardiovascular disorders and premature births. Our projects focus on genetics susceptibility to aggressive periodontitis.
  4. Dental Registry and DNA Repository:  The NIH/NIDCR has recently established new scientific priorities and research initiatives evoking multi- and interdisciplinary research to solve the "puzzle" of complex diseases and conditions. There is an overwhelming need to better understand the genes, behavior, diet/nutrition, infectious agents, environment, and society; not to mention the need to find the best way to conduct research opportunities during these challenging budget times. With all of that in mind, we have established the Dental Registry and DNA Repository (DRDR) at the School of Dental Medicine in order to obtain clinical information and a biological sample from all individuals seeking treatment at the School of Dental Medicine. The Dental Registry and DNA Repository is revolutionary because it eliminates the need for further Institutional Review Board (IRB) evaluations for projects seeking to use data from the registry.  Furthermore, the DRDR will allow the clinical faculty to engage in research activities and to increase the external funding for research at the School of Dental Medicine. To our knowledge, the SDM Dental Registry and DNA Repository is the only project in the world to keep a comprehensive set of dental phenotypes linked to DNA samples.



For a full list of Alex Vieira's publications, please click here.

Vieira AR, Modesto A, Meira R, Barbosa AR, Lidral AC, Murray JC. Interferon regulatory factor 6 (IRF6) and fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1) contribute to human tooth agenesis. Am J Med Genet A. 2007 Feb 22;143A(6):538-545.

Pardo ARV, Castillo ST, Vieira AR. Genetic studies of a Chilean family with three different dental anomalies. Rev Med Chile 2006 Dec; 134(12):1541-1548.

Avila JR, Jezewski PA, Vieira AR, Orioli IM, Castilla EE, Christensen K, Daack-Hirsch S, Romitti PA, Murray JC. PVRL1 variants contribute to non-syndromic cleft lip and palate in multiple populations. Am J Med Genet A. 2006 Dec 1;140(23):2562-70.

Warrington A, Vieira AR, Christensen K, Orioli IM, Castilla EE, Romitti PA, Murray JC. Genetic evidence for the role of loci at 19q13 in cleft lip and palate. J Med Genet 2006 Jun;43(6):e26.

Neiswanger K, Deleyiannis FW, Avila JR, Cooper ME, Brandon CA, Vieira AR, Noorchashm N, Weinberg SM, Bardi KM, Murray JC, Marazita ML. Candidate genes for oral-facial clefts in Guatemalan families. Ann Plast Surg. 2006 May;56(5):518-21; discussion 521.

Vieira AR. Association between the transforming growth factor alpha gene and nonsyndromic oral clefts: a HuGE review. Am J Epidemiol. 2006 May 1;163(9):790-810.

Vieira AR, Avila JR, Daack-Hirsch S, Dragan E, Felix TM, Rahimov F, Harrington J, Schultz RR, Watanabe Y, Johnson M, Fang J, O'Brien SE, Orioli IM, Castilla EE, Fitzpatrick DR, Jiang R, Marazita ML, Murray JC. Medical sequencing of candidate genes for nonsyndromic cleft lip and palate. PLoS Genet. 2005 Dec;1(6):e64.

Vieira AR, Murray JC, Trembath D, Orioli IM, Castilla EE, Cooper ME, Marazita ML, Lennon-Graham F, Speer M. Studies of reduced folate carrier 1 (RFC1) A80G and 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) C677T polymorphisms with neural tube and orofacial cleft defects. Am J Med Genet A. 2005 Jun 1;135(2):220-3.

Vieira AR, Castillo Taucher S. [Maternal age and neural tube defects: evidence for a greater effect in spina bifida than in anencephaly] Rev Med Chil. 2005 Jan;133(1):62-70.

Vieira AR, Castillo Taucher S, Aravena T, Astete C, Sanz P, Tastets ME, Monasterio L, Murray JC. [Mutational analysis of the muscle segment homeobox gene 1 (MSX1) in Chilean patients with cleft lip/palate] Rev Med Chil. 2004 Jul;132(7):816-22.

Vieira AR, Meira R, Modesto A, Murray JC. MSX1, PAX9, and TGFA contribute to tooth agenesis in humans. J Dent Res 2004 Sep; 83(9):723-7.

Vieira AR, Orioli IM, Castilla EE, Moreno L, Arcos-Burgos M, Lidral AC, Field LL, Liu YE, Ray A, Goldstein TH, Schultz RE, Shi M, Johnson MK, Kondo S, Schutte BC, Marazita ML, Murray JC. Interferon regulatory factor 6 (IRF6) gene variants and the risk of isolated cleft lip or palate. N Engl J Med. 2004 Aug 19;351(8):769-80.

Vieira AR. Birth order and neural tube defects: a reappraisal. J Neurol Sci. 2004 Jan 5;217(1):65-72.