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The translation focus of our research is to use experimental models to functionally impute human gene variants identified in orofacial cleft and other craniofacial malformations. We collaborate with human geneticists and data scientists to curate genes associated with congenital craniofacial conditions and interrogate these genes functionally in experimental models.
The team works with human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and animal models to elucidate the function of genes in craniofacial development. For many genes required in craniofacial development, such as IRF6, ESRP1/2 and ALX1, the lab team has developed zebrafish, animal, and human iPSC cell models where they can functionally test human variants in gene identified to be associated with craniofacial malformation.
The work of Liao Lab scientists will have a direct bearing on imputation of human gene variants and potentially lead to discovery of drugs to mitigate malformation phenotypes. They hope to uncover basic biology of epithelial mesenchymal transition, neural crest cell specification, migration, differentiation and potential for regeneration.
In the process, Dr. Liao is passionate on training the next generation of scientists and clinician-scientists to advance the field, with particular focus on building a collaborative and diverse workforce with respect for equity in how we treat patients and regard colleagues. Progress is made at the interface of disciplines by investigators of diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
The Liao Lab's research contributed advances in the following areas:
- Described the conservation of craniofacial development across vertebrate species, zebrafish cleft models in irf6 and esrp1/2 mutants
- Delineated the role of Wnt signaling in craniofacial morphogenesis, requirement of wls, gpc4, wnt9a, wn5b in shaping the cardinal dimensions of the anteroneurcranium
- Discovered shared embryonic and molecular regulation of mid face and eye development, as regulated by ALX1.
- Functional genomic analysis of human gene variants associated with orofacial cleft: IRF6, ESRP1, ESRP2, CTNND1, and others
- Role of ESRP1/2 in regulating alternative splicing of genes that regulate epithelial-mesenchymal transition, during embryogenesis