Shaping the craniofacial skeleton in zebrafish
How is the skeleton patterned? What are the processes that determine where a skeletal element will form in an embryo, and why does each skeletal element attain a unique shape and size? In our lab we are interested in understanding 1) themolecular cues that signal cells to be specified to become osteoblasts (which form bone) and chondrocytes (which form cartilage) at exact places inthe forming head skeleton in zebrafish, and 2) how these cells behave to give bones and cartilages their distinctive shapes.
We are particularly interested in how disruptions in molecular signaling pathways can affect skeletal patterning, with a goal of understanding how loss of gene function underlies human craniofacial disorders.
We study the zebrafish as a model for understanding vertebrate craniofacial development. Zebrafish embryos are small and clear and we can watch how the skeleton forms in living fish using confocal microscopy. By studying skeletal formation in living fish, we can gain unprecedented insights into the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying skeletal morphogenesis.