The long-term goals of the applicant are to become a successfully funded, independent, craniofacial developmental biologist, conducting human-disease-focused and translatable research aimed at improving dental, oral, and craniofacial health. This overarching goal will be actualized by the implementation of a highly coordinated, thorough, and integrated career development plan including components of mentored guidance and training, an adept research environment, and a complementary research project. First, a career development plan comprised of a mentor, advisory committee, collaborators, and courses and conferences has been established to provide the applicant with the skills and guidance to transition into a position of independence in a timely manner. The mentor, Dr. Williams, is a successfully funded researcher and leading expert in craniofacial biology and is thus well suited to oversee the applicant?s training. The advisory committee includes both internal and external members that will provide critical guidance and feedback on aspects of career development and technical components of cranial bone, tooth, enamel, cell culture, bioinformatic, and gene-editing biology. The committee also includes two young faculty members who will specifically assist the applicant in components directly related to career transition. In addition, courses in bioinformatics and conferences on bone and tooth development and biomineralization are included to facilitate these components of the training program. Second, an adept research environment ? the Department of Craniofacial Biology, the University of Colorado, along with associated resources, core facilities, and faculty members not directly involved in the applicant?s advisory committee ? is established to provide assurance of the applicant?s success. Third, a research project has been proposed to facilitate training of the applicant in new areas of biology essential for his path to independence while simultaneously maintaining the key goals of improving dental, oral, and craniofacial health. Central to these goals are understanding the unique gene regulatory networks driving cranial skeletal mineralization ? a process that is well described in the mesoderm-derived trunk skeleton yet lacks clarity in the cranial skeleton owing to its unique developmental origins. To this end, the research proposal utilizes three aims to test the important hypothesis that Memo1 and Runx2 genetically integrate to drive mineralization of key craniodental structures, including teeth and bones.
Aim I will establish whether Memo1 expression is directly regulated by RUNX2 in the context of in vivo cranial endochondral ossification and in vitro amelogenesis.
Aim II will more specifically determine the role of MEMO1 in cranial endochondral ossification and its genetic integration with Runx2-II in this process. Finally, Aim III will establish the role these molecules play in mineralization of the enamel layer during tooth development. Collectively, this comprehensive career development and research plan will ensure the successful transition of the applicant from a dependent research position into one of well-prepared independence.
The formation of mineralized tissue is a key process during mammalian embryonic development. In the head, mineralization is required to provide structural integrity to the bones of the skull and face as well as to the developing teeth; defects in this process can lead to a range of pathologies affecting the human craniofacial complex. The fundamental goal of this project is to gain insight into the genetic control of mineralization for the head to obtain a clearer understanding of these associated developmental disorders.