Craniofacial Development and Skin fibrosis

Our research is focused on embryonic skin and skull bone development and spans the developmental period of cell fate selection through the diseases of skin. Skin is composed of the overlying epidermis and the underlying dermis. There is relatively little known about the genetic and cellular events that lead to the acquisition of dermal identity. The dermis originates from different progenitor populations. Our goal is to identify the genetic pathways that confer dermal cell identity which subsequently drives the development of the various skin appendages and the diseases of the skin. We are currently using transgenic mice to address questions of cranial bone and skin cell specification and differentiation. These are fundamental biological problems with implications for development in general, and for our understanding of bone and skin related diseases.

Past and current research projects

 

Ongoing Projects

Role of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling and other regulatory pathways in cranial bone lineage selection. 

Role of Calvarial bone expansion in the head in collaboration with Dr. Sevan Hopyan (Sick Kids, Toronto) and Dr. Matthew Harris (Boston Children’s Hospital)

Calvarial bones form as a foci above the eye and expand apically to cover your brain, how? (From Ferguson and Atit review, 2018).

Identifying the mechanism of beta-catenin in dermal fibrosis and loss of intradermal adipocytes (In collaboration with Valerie Horsley, Yale University)

Healthy skin schematic (left) and fibrotic skin (right). Fat loss in the skin precedes accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM). What is the role of adipocytes and their lipids in fibrosis? (Artwork using biorender.com)

Skin patterning and role epigenetic regulators in the dermis during skin development. 

Dermal fibroblasts differentiate and contribute to hair follicle forming fibroblasts in the upper dermis and scar forming fibroblasts in the lower dermis. How are the key signaling pathways and genes that regulate dermal fibroblasts differentiation controlled? What is the role of epigenetic regulation? (Artwork: Derrik Nau).