A major focus in the lab is craniofacial and dental development, as malformations in these organs are among the most common congenital abnormalities and have profound impacts on the lives of patients and their families.
The maintenance, repair and growth of many adult organs, such as the bone marrow, skin, brain, and gastrointestinal tract, depend on tissue-specific populations of stem cells. We use the rodent incisor as a model system to understand adult stem cells. Unlike human teeth, the rodent incisor grows continuously throughout the life of the animal. We are working to understand the molecular processes that regulate the behavior of these stem cells, including their capacity to self-renew as well as to differentiate into the various cellular components of the tooth. We intend to use the insights provided by our experiments in mice to guide us in the use of stem cells in regenerating dental tissues as a paradigm for developing replacement organs.