EE Associate Prof. Chunlei Liu has co-authored a study which has identified a specific molecular pathway that links maternal fever early in pregnancy to some congenital heart and cranial facial birth defects. The findings, which were published in the journal Science Signaling, suggest a portion of congenital birth defects could be prevented if fevers are treated through the judicious use of acetaminophen during the first trimester. Among their discoveries, the scientists found that neural crest cells—which are critical building blocks for the heart, face and jaw—contain temperature-sensitive properties. “With electrical magnetic waves coupled with engineered ion channel proteins, we are able to impact specific biological cells remotely without affecting other biochemical environments,” Liu said. “The technique can be applied to study many different cell types and their roles at various developmental stages.” The research was conducted in collaboration with scientists at Duke Universiy.