CMRC Children's Memorial Research Center
Craniofacial cartilage

Compare to wild type (Top) mutant head skeleton (Bottom) is composed of shorter elements.
6 day old embryos stained with alcian blue. 
Ventral view, anterior to  the left.
m, meckel's; pq, palatoquadrate;
ch, ceratohyal; cb, ceratobranchial cartilages;
e eye.
We are focusing our current efforts on the mechanisms that shape the zebrafish head skeleton.  Craniofacial defects are among the most frequent human congenital abnormalities, constituting 35% of all birth defects.  Those anomalies include oral clefts, which occur in approximately 1 in every 700 live births, and other craniofacial anomalies, which occur in 1 in every 1,600 newborns in the USA.  An understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control craniofacial development may lead to the development of new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat craniofacial anomalies.

The role of non-canonical Wnt signaling in cartilage morphogenesis is of our particularl interested. Mutants with altered non-canonical Wnt signaling pathway exhibit similar cell behavior defects during gastrulation and cartilage morphogenesis.  We investigate the function of non-canonical Wnt’s and their potential co-receptors glypicans in chondrocytes differentiation and polarization. As initial steps in craniofacial development are similar in all vertebrates, those studies will help us understand the genetic basis for relatively frequent congenital anomalies that cause abnormal development of the hard and soft tissue of the head and neck.

This project is supported by the 
R01 DE016678 grant from NIH/National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research