Cleft lip and palate (CLP) is the most common congenital defect of the face. Many animal models have been utilized to study embryogenesis and pathogenesis of CLP, including the development of secondary anomalies and consequent deformities. However, the ideal gestational age for surgical creation of lip or palate defects in rat models has never been determined. The aim of the present study is to improve the experimental model utilizing rat fetuses, defining the most appropriate timing for creation of the lip defect model. The study was composed of three groups of fetuses undergoing surgical creation of a lip defect at the left side of the superior lip at 17.5, 18.5, and 19.5 days of gestation. Fetuses were harvested at 21.5 days of gestation (term = 22 days) and underwent macroscopic and microscopic analyses. We found that the most appropriate moment for lip defect creation was at 19.5 days, given the presence of lip depression at the site of the defect and asymmetry and retraction associated with interruption of the lip and complete reepithelialization of the borders of the defect
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