Center for Oral Biology Clonal expansion of differentiated acinar cells in the Submandibular gland Bone (red) and Cartilage (blue) staining of a mouse embryo A mouse embryo (left) attached to a placenta (right) Lacrimal gland organ culture Salivary gland duct Main duct of a salivary gland The Center for Oral Biology takes a highly interdisciplinary approach to research that promises to advance a wide variety of diseases. We are examining how embryos develop from a single cell to a complex organism, how genes control the development of organs, and how abnormal regulation of these genes results in human diseases. For example, our scientists discovered a defect in cellular pathways that provides a new explanation for the earliest stages of abnormal skull development in newborns, known as craniosynostosis. This affects one in 2,500 babies, and can restrict normal brain growth and result in neurodevelopment delays and elevated intracranial pressure. To the benefit of the estimated 60,000 patients who are diagnosed with head and neck cancer each year, we are studying how to repair aggressive radiation treatment damage to the secretory glands which are responsible for tears, saliva, and protection of the nasal mucosa. Our long-range goal is to establish therapeutic strategies, including the use of stem cells, to repair or regenerate these damaged glands. This will help cancer survivors avoid the consequences of dry mouth and an increased susceptibility to oral infection and disease. We are also studying how microorganisms in the mouth cause not only cavities and oral infectious diseases, but systemic diseases including heart disease, stroke, preterm birth, and diabetes. In addition, we are investigating how the oral microbiome—the healthy microbes that inhabit our mouths—play a role in developing disease or maintaining health.