Our laboratory studies the molecular genetics of craniofacial and tooth development and the regulation of stem cells in teeth. We are currently working on two main projects.
Molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying embryonic and supernumerary tooth development
In the first project, we are analyzing the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying embryonic tooth development and supernumerary tooth formation, with special focus on Wnt signaling in these processes. Wnt signaling regulates many aspects of organogenesis and the homeostasis of adult tissues. Wnt signaling resides furthest upstream in the hierarchy of signaling pathways during the initiation of ectodermal organ development. Constitutive activation of Wnt signaling in the epithelium results in ectopic and supernumerary organ formation, including teeth, hair follicles, and taste buds. We use knock-out and knock-in mouse models and systematic approaches to analyze the Wnt signaling pathways during endogenous and supernumerary tooth development, aiming at re-activating or re-programming adult oral tissues and inducing new tooth formation in vitro and in vivo.
Regulation of stem cells in teeth
In the second project, we use mouse incisors as a model to study the characters and regulations of adult stem cells. The mouse incisor is very special, because it continuously grows throughout the life of the animal. We are studying the characteristics and behavior of adult stem cells in teeth, isolating and culturing dental stem cells in vitro. We use a variety of techniques, including transgenic mice, functional genomics, and tissue culture and grafting to analyze the regulation of dental stem cells as well as stem cell niches in teeth. We want to understand how stem cells are maintained and regulated in mouse incisors, thus providing information for human stem cell studies. Our long-term goal is to integrate developmental biology, stem cell biology, tissue engineering, and clinic dentistry to assist in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of oral and dental diseases, as well as tooth replacement therapy and regenerative medicine.
Postdoctoral research fellows