Daniel Graf


The head is a very complicated structure and home to many important organs. Craniofacial tissues are affected in three out of four human congenital birth defects, but in most cases the underlying genetic variation remains unknown. We seek to understand how orofacial structures develop and what goes wrong in the case of malformations. Orofacial structures develop through reciprocal interactions of neural crest and epithelial cells. Central to these interactions is the reiterated use of only a few conserved signaling networks, amongst them Bone Morphogenetic Protein signaling. Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs) are evolutionary highly conserved molecules that regulate the development of most embryonic tissues. These molecules are also involved in the homeostasis and repair of most adult tissues. By altering BMP signalling in vivo we study their specific involvement during the development of orofacial structures, which helps us to understand how altered BMP signalling results in orofacial malformations. Untangling the molecular and cellular interactions will not only give us a better understanding of the developmental processes in question, but will also facilitate novel approaches for tissue repair and regeneration.