24. Juni 2021

New centre combines medical tradition with artificial intelligence

The Universitäres Zentrum für Lippen-Kiefer-Gaumenspalten und Gesichtsfehlbildungen (University Centre for Cleft Lip, Jaw and Palate and Facial Deformities) is combining a 150-year-old medical tradition in Basel with state-of-the-art treatment methods. Under the leadership of PD Andreas Müller, University Hospital Basel is developing a promising method which will simplify treatment and enable a significantly better quality of life for affected children, including in poorer countries.


Cleft lip, jaw and palate is the most common birth defect in the jaw and facial area and occurs in approximately 1 out of 750 births. It emerges between the sixth and twelfth week of development because the two halves of the lips and gums fail to unite. In most cases a cleft is already sealed up within the first year of life, which is the best outcome for the child’s development. Early surgical interventions thus enable a normal food intake, a good standard of speech development and an improved external appearance. The new centre offers affected children and their parents a place to receive coordinated and continuous care from all the necessary specialists. Such treatment often extends into adulthood.

The Centre for Cleft Lip, Jaw and Palate and Facial Deformities, newly founded at University Hospital Basel under the leadership of PD Andreas Müller, is currently working with the Botnar Research Centre for Child Health, ETH Zurich, Disney Research and international partners from India and Poland to make the minimally invasive procedure, which was developed in Basel and involves only a single operation, more widely available. The aim is to drastically simplify the relatively intricate production of the palatal plate in preparation for the operation using artificial intelligence. The analysis relies on optical scanning without the use of anaesthesia or X-rays, making it not only minimally invasive but also low risk. In the future, doctors are to be able to photograph the patient’s gums using a smartphone and process the images with special software. This will automatically create a spatial model of the gum and design a customised palatal plate, which can then be printed quickly and cheaply using a 3D printer. Andreas Müller and his team now want to simplify this process to a point where even clinics in poorer countries can produce palatal plates without any problems.

Basel has a tradition of treating cleft lip, jaw and palate dating back over 150 years, starting with August Socin and Wilhelm His Senior’s groundbreaking research results in the 19th century and continuing with this new Centre for Cleft Lip, Jaw and Palate and Facial Deformities. This centre will not only provide the best treatment for patients from the cross-border region of Basel and Switzerland, but will also pave the way to better treatment for cleft lip, jaw and palate and other facial deformities in many poorer countries in the future.