The laboratory of
Dental and craniofacial regeneration
Who are we?
I am a stem cell biologist interested in harnessing the regenerative power of stem cells to repair mineralized tissues like bones and teeth. I am also a veterinarian, fascinated by animals whose unique physiologies can show us how to do that.
What we do
Our lab aims to understand the mechanisms that regulate the morphogenesis, homeostasis and, especially, the regeneration of craniofacial mineralized structures including teeth and bones. Our ultimate goal is to apply this knowledge towards developing stem cell-based regenerative therapies.
Why do we do it?
Craniofacial bones and teeth are ideal complementary systems for studying developmental and stem cell biology. They are also clinically relevant, as mineralized craniofacial tissues may be lost due to disease, trauma, aging or congenital defects. Current treatment options are often unsatisfactory. Our research aims to find ways to produce cells of different types and mold them into specific structures, which may eventually be used to replace damaged bone and teeth.
We use a variety of genetic, molecular, imaging and biomechanical techniques on several model organisms to study fundamental aspects of stem cell biology in bones and teeth.
Mouse incisor stem cells
In vivo micro-CT images taken immediately (day 0, left) after trimming 1 mm from the tip of one incisor (yellow arrowhead) and 4 days later demonstrate the remarkable regenerative capacity of the of mouse incisors
Have you ever wondered what the tooth fairy does with your tooth after she has taken it from under your pillow? As a kid, I believed that she used these teeth to help doctors make new teeth for people who had lost theirs. Unfortunately, this was just my imagination. In real life, once we lose a permanent tooth, it is gone forever. Yet, amazingly, some animals, including mice and elephants, can re-build broken or lost teeth! If they can do it, can they teach us how? In this project, we are trying to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that enable mice to renew their teeth. Our long-term goal is to use this knowledge to do what I thought the tooth fairy should be doing: to fix or even re-build human teeth.
Cranial base development in Costello syndrome
Elongation of the cranium is driven by the expansion of the cranial base, where two opposing cartilage growth plates share a pool of chondrocytes known as the resting zone (RZ)
Costello syndrome is a rare congenital disorder caused by mutations in a gene called HRAS, which regulates an important signaling pathway known as Ras/MAPK. While many Costello syndrome patients suffer from distinct facial malformations, the connection between Ras/MAPK dysregulation and these features is unknown. This knowledge gap limits our ability to diagnose, treat and prevent the disease. To fill this gap, we combine functional experiments with comparative morphometrics, i.e. measurements of shape and size, in human patients and in a mouse model. Our goal is to uncover the molecular and cellular mechanisms that are affected by the mutation and, in turn, impair craniofacial development.