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Thursday, November 7 2019
Room 1005, Roger A. and Helen B. Krone Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB), 950 Atlantic Dr NW, Atlanta, GA 30332
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Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Tissue Homeostasis and Regeneration

Yang Chai, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology
Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry
University of Southern California

The human skull is composed of twenty-two bones connected by sutures, which are fibrous joints that contain skeletal progenitor cells. The calvarial sutures allow compression of the skull during childbirth and dramatic postnatal growth. Craniosynostosis is a common congenital defect characterized by premature suture fusion, which can cause severe outcomes including abnormal growth of the skull, increased intracranial pressure, retarded brain development and impaired neurocongnitive function. Currently, the only treatment option for infants with craniosynostosis is surgery that involves cutting the calvaria into pieces, manually reshaping them, and fixing them in place mechanically, necessitating blood transfusion and complex post-surgical care. In many cases, the calvarial bones fuse again, which requires repeated operations to relieve the constriction on the brain during the sensitive period of development in order to improve physiological function. Clearly, there is an immense need for a better approach to the treatment of craniosynostosis and prevention of re-occurrence.

Recent studies have shown that Gli1+ cells are an indispensable mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) source within the cranial sutures. Ablation of Gli1+ cells leads to fusion of all craniofacial sutures in adult mice; we have also demonstrated there is a premature loss of Gli1+ cells prior to coronal suture fusion in Twist1+/- mice, which provide an important, clinically relevant craniosynostosis model of Saethre-Chotzen syndrome. Here we took advantage of the Twist1+/- mouse model, developed an innovative scaffold combined with Gli1+ MSCs and were able to regenerate a coronal suture and improved the neurocongnitive behavior of Twist1+/- mice. This discovery provides a potential new approach for treating patients with craniosynostosis.

Supported by the NIDCR, NIH R01 DE026339; U01 DE 026914

Professor Chai holds the George and Mary Lou Boone Chair in Craniofacial Biology and is the associate dean of research and director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Ostrow School. Chai is internationally renowned for his research into the genetics, cellular signaling, and development of cranial and facial structures, including the causes of and potential preventive measures for facial deformities such as cleft palate. Among his many honors, he has received a National Institutes of Health MERIT Award, has been elected as an American Association for the Advancement of Sciences Fellow, has received an International Association for Dental Research Distinguished Scientist Award, and has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals. He is also an alumnus of the Ostrow School of Dentistry and is an award-winning educator and a practicing dentist at the school.

Host: Shuyi Nie, Ph.D.

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