Dr. Akyalcin’s research focuses on orthodontic treatment mechanics, imaging, digital diagnosis and treatment planning, and materials science. His laboratory investigates the use and application of various technological advancements in orthodontics and craniofacial imaging. He is also working closely with graduate residents and dental students in a broad range of topics to help identify common clinical problems that clinicians encounter in practice such as biomechanical issues, relapse and other adverse effects of orthodontic treatment mechanics.
Dr. Chiquet’s research focuses on studying the genetics of craniofacial development, with emphasis on cleft lip and palate. A conditional CRISPLD2 knockout mouse is being analyzed to study the effects of the CRISPLD2 gene in craniofacial development. The CRISPLD2 gene has been shown to be associated with nonsyndromic cleft lip and palate and critical for normal palate and jaw formation in zebrafish. Pathway analysis is underway testing for association with differentially regulated genes in the presence or absence of CRISPLD2 in zebrafish. We are using both mouse and zebrafish to define the role of CRISPLD2 in craniofacial development.
Dr. Fakhouri’s research focuses on identifying genetic factors that cause and contribute to the risk to have a small mandible (micrognathia) and Pierre Robin Sequence. We use mouse models and organ explants to delineate the mechanism of a novel genetic interaction between IRF6 and TWIST1, two transcription factors that play an important role in mandibular and palatal development. Bioinformatic analysis and genome-wide approaches are also utilized to decipher the risk of non-coding DNA variants associated with micrognathia and cleft lip and palate. The overall research goal is to translate our findings into the clinic to improve risk assessment and to develop preventive approaches.
Dr. Hecht has two research focuses. Genes contributing to nonsyndromic cleft lip and palate are identified using next generation sequencing in a family-based approach, and then functionally tested in zebrafish. This approach has successfully identified genes that are now being modeled in mice. In our cartilage biology studies, a DOX-inducible mouse (MT-COMP) with the common COMP mutation was used to delineate the chondrocyte-specific mechanisms causing the dwarfing condition, pseudoachondroplasia. We have successfully tested different treatments in the MT-COMP mouse, which partially rescued the short limb phenotype.
Dr. Iwata’s research focuses on understanding molecular mechanisms that cause craniofacial birth defects. His group is working on regulatory mechanisms of 1) exocytosis mediated by autophagy, 2) microRNAs, 3) cellular cholesterol metabolism and 4) WNT signaling. More recently, his group has expanded their research into the areas of stem cells and brain development. They have generated new genetic mouse models and has been characterizing the molecular mechanism using multidisciplinary approaches including genetics, genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics. Long-term goals are to identify the novel mechanisms that control craniofacial development and develop new therapeutic s for birth defects and regeneration.
Dr. Letra’s research focuses on understanding the genetic etiology underlying human birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate and dental anomalies. Next generation genetic technologies and functional assays are used to better understand the biological mechanisms underlying genetic variations in vivo and in vitro. More recently, her research has started exploring the potential common etiology between craniofacial anomalies and cancer. Additional areas of research focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms of oral inflammatory conditions such as periodontal and periapical disease.
Dr. Silva’s research focuses on two distinct projects delineating the genetics of craniofacial anomalies and genetic susceptibility of periapical disease (a chronic inflammatory process associated with bone loss in the jaws). We are testing the hypothesis that cancer and congenital malformations have a common etiology. Preliminary data from this project showed association between several types of cancer, in particular colon cancer, in individuals/families with craniofacial anomalies such as tooth agenesis and cleft lip and palate. Gene discovery studies suggested AXIN2, a negative regulator of the WNT pathway, as a potential candidate gene for nonsyndromic oral clefts.
Dr. Wong has two major research interests. Within the AFIRM consortium, his project focuses on the management of severe maxillofacial injuries through a series of therapeutic interventions. First, preservation of skeletal space is accomplished with a drug-eluting methylmethacrylate polymer. This is followed by the generation of customized vascularized bone grafts formed in a distant site and subsequently transferred into the traumatic defect. His second research focus involves the characterization of TMJ disease and the regeneration of the disc and condyle using tissue engineering principles.