Analysis of gene function in the specification of jaw identity

The genetic basis of many facial defects remains unclear. One of the reasons is that we only have a partial picture of gene expression during facial development – when, and in what sequence, particular genes are turned on and off to give rise to the bones, nerves and muscles of the face. This enables the same tissues, which are used in all parts of the face, to arrange themselves in particular patterns to create to a fully-formed face. Dr. Suresh Nimmagadda focuses on how the lower and upper jaws are formed during embryonic development, arising from tiny buds of tissue surrounding the mouth. In particular, he is studying retinoic acid (RA) and bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP), which are secreted during development. He hopes to reveal the roles played by gene targets of BMP and RA in establishing jaw identity. The long term goal of his research is to improve our understanding of the normal and abnormal facial development, forming the basis for new ways to prevent facial defects.