Contributions to Science

A chronological list of activities in the style of the “C. Contributions to Science” section in the new (2015) NIH biosketch.

Cleft lip and palate surgery. While completing my doctorate, I began what was to become a long involvement in experimental and clinical studies of cranial morphology. Concerns about possible iatrogenic effects of cleft lip and palate repair and in particular, clinical observations suggesting that cleft palate repair inhibits growth of the maxillofacial skeleton date back to the 1940s. This unparalleled series of studies identified technique-specific variations in subsequent maxillofacial growth and form leading to the reconsideration/modification of surgical techniques. I was a co-investigator in all of these studies. I participated in the design of the studies, assisted with surgical procedures, was responsible for the execution of the studies and collection of data, performed all statistical analyses, contributed substantially to the writing of the manuscripts, and reviewed, revised and approved the final manuscripts as submitted. These publications are representative of the body of work that lead to my election in 1993 to the honorary position of Associate Member of the Plastic Surgery Research Council.

  1. Bardach J, Kelly KM (1988) The influence of lip repair with and without soft tissue undermining on facial growth in beagles. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 82:747-755.
  2. Kelly KM, Bardach J (1988) Facial growth in beagles with repair of an isolated cleft palate. European Journal of Plastic Surgery, 12:66-73.
  3. Bardach J, Kelly KM (1990) Does interference with mucoperiosteum and palatal bone affect craniofacial growth? An experimental study in beagles. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 86:1093-1100.
  4. Kelly KM (2020) Biological basis of cleft palate and palatal surgery. In: FJM Verstraete, MJ Lommer, B Arzi (Editors), Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Dogs and Cats (2nd ed). Elsevier: St. Louis.

Human biogeography. My doctoral research focused on the biogeographic distribution of Oceanic populations. Haplotype arrays of gamma-immunoglobulin polymorphisms had previously been recognized as genetic markers for specific Oceanic linguistic taxa. My research found an association between the distribution of malaria and the frequency and occurrence of specific gamma-immunoglobulin allotypes posited to be mediated by an abnormal immune response to malaria. These publications extended the work of my predecessors and mentors; reframed the interpretation of gamma-immunoglobulin polymorphism distributions, extended the principles of human biogeography and compelled discussions of (pre-European) Oceanic colonization to address the role of natural selection. I was the sole investigator or co-primary investigator in all of these studies. This line of investigation and specifically the publication of the Clark & Kelly (1993) lead to my recognition as a Fellow of the American Anthropological Association in 1994. [Kelly (1990) and Clark & Kelly (1993) are cited WW Howells in Volume 2 of “History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia” (1997), Frank Spencer (Editor).]

  1. Kelly KM (1990) Gm polymorphisms, linguistic affinities, and natural selection in Melanesia. Current Anthropology, 31:201-219.
  2. Clark JT, Kelly KM (1993) Human genetics, paleoenvironments, and malaria: relationships and implications for the settlement of Oceania. American Anthropologist, 95:613-631.
  3. Kelly KM (1996) IGHG3 G and the pathogenesis of hyperreactive malarious splenomegaly. Medical Hypotheses, 46:135-139.
  4. Kelly KM (1999) Malaria and immunoglobulins in Pacific prehistory. American Anthropologist, 101: 806-809.

Deformational plagiocephaly. The success of the 1992 “Back to Sleep” public health campaign was followed by an epidemic increase in the incidence of infants with deformational changes of the cranium. Although first described in 1979, in 1995, the FDA sought to regulate the orthotic cranial molding helmets devices being used to treat deformational plagiocephaly. I was the lead investigator on a pair of clinical studies submitted to the FDA, and subsequently published, that demonstrated orthotic cranial molding helmets as a safe and effective nonsurgical alternative to invasive intracranial surgical remodeling. These efforts led to the classification of cranial orthoses as a Class II neurology device and subsequently to the approval of the first regulated cranial orthosis. Follow-up studies have focused on the etiology and incidence of deformational plagiocephaly. By providing evidence of safety, effectiveness, etiology and incidence, this body of work has changed the standard of medical treatment of nonsynostotic cranial deformations. I was the primary investigator or a co-investigator in all of these studies. I participated in the conceptualization and design of these studies, performed all statistical analyses, contributed substantially to the writing of the manuscripts, and reviewed, revised and approved the final manuscripts as submitted.

  1. Kelly KM, Littlefield TR, Pomatto JK, Ripley CE, Beals SP, Joganic EF (1999) Importance of early recognition and treatment of deformational plagiocephaly with orthotic cranioplasty. American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal, 36: 127-30.
  2. Kelly KM, Littlefield TR, Pomatto JK, Manwarring KH, Beals SP (1999) Cranial growth unrestricted during treatment of deformational plagiocephaly. Pediatric Neurosurgery, 30: 193-199.
  3. Littlefield TR, Kelly KM, Pomatto JK, Beals SP (1999) Multiple-birth infants at higher risk for development of deformational plagiocephaly. Pediatrics, 103: 565-69.
  4. Kelly KM, Joganic E, Beals SP, Riggs JA, McGuire MK, Littlefield TR (2018) Helmet Treatment of infants with deformational brachycephaly. Global Pediatric Health. 5: 1-11.

Honorable Mention (other noteworthy scientific activities to which I have contributed)