Research Centers

Craniofacial Developmental Biology Laboratory

Advances in clinical treatment of congenital craniofacial malformations require improved understanding of the developmental genetic basis of facial morphogenesis. Our goal in the Craniofacial Developmental Biology Laboratory is to investigate fundamental genetic regulation of facial development, with a focus on translating basic science discoveries to clinical advances. We perform research on palate development and neural crest cell biology.

homology-of-cleft-malformation

 

Formation of the vertebrate facial structures requires coordination of complex molecular and morphogenetic cues. The genes regulating facial development are well conserved across vertebrate species, where minor molecular variations contribute to dramatic alterations in form.

We take advantage of the versatility of forward and reverse genetics in zebrafish as a model to assay function of human cleft candidate genes and demonstrated that the zebrafish palate (ethmoid plate) is morphogenetically homologous to the mammalian primary palate (Dougherty, Development, 2013). We also showed that convergence and extension mechanisms operate in palate morphogenesis, and we are dissecting the Wnt pathway genetically (Kamel, Developmental Biology, 2013).

Advances in clinical treatment of congenital craniofacial malformations require improved understanding of the developmental genetic basis of facial morphogenesis. Our goal is to investigate fundamental genetic regulation of facial development, with focus on translating basic science discoveries to clinical treatments.

We are applying zebrafish to carry out high throughput functional genomics studies, to characterize human genes implicated in orofacial clefts (Gfrerer, 2014). We are also using zebrafish as the biological platform to identify chemicals that specifically regulate craniofacial morphogenesis, or even discover compounds that mitigate malformations (Kong, Chemistry & Biology, 2014).

Affiliations

  • Center for Regenerative Medicine
  • Mass General Department of Surgery
    Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Harvard Stem Cell Institute
  • Shriners Hospital for Children

Funding

  • National Institutes of Health (NIDCR, NIGMS)
  • March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Award
  • American Surgical Association Research Fellowship
  • Shriners Hospital for Children
  • Harvard Stem Cell Institute Seed Grant
  • Plastic Surgery Foundation
  • Mass General Department of Surgery, Junior Faculty Award
  • Amelia Peabody Charitable Trust

 

 

 

Liao and Galloway Lab members

Liao (L) and Galloway (G) Lab members, summer 2013. From left to right: Eric Liao, Andrew Maul (G), Yawei Kong (L), Kenta Kawasaki (L), Mike Grimaldi (L), Lisa Gfrerer (L), Matt King (G), Rishita Shah (G), Gia Ciccolo (G), Renee Ethier (CRM), Erin Betters (G), Lucie Rochard (L), Jenna Galloway, and Edward Li (L).

Principal Investigator

  • Eric C. Liao, MD, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
    Principal Faculty, Harvard Stem Cell Institute
    Principal Investigator, Harvard Stem Cell Institute
    Deputy Director of Research, Boston Shriners Hospital

Research Fellows

  • Kana Ishii, MD, PhD
  • Yawei Kong, PhD
  • Irving Ling, MD
  • Kusumika Mukherjee, PhD
  • Lucie Rochard, PhD

Students

  • Edward Li - MD, PhD candidate, Harvard Medical School, MIT
  • Stefanie Monica - PhD candidate, University of California at Berkeley
  • Lisa Gfrerer, MD - PhD candidate University of Vienna, Austria
  • Matthew Armstrong, Belmont Hill High School

Lab Manager

  • Mike Grimaldi, BS

Lab Technician

  • Christina Nguyen, BS

Aquatics Facility Manager

  • Renee Ethier, BS

Collaborators

  • Richard Maas, MD, PhD, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
  • Cynthia Morton, PhD, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
  • Jim Gusella, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Leonard Zon, MD, HHMI, Boston Children’s Hospital
  • Robert Cornell, PhD, University of Iowa
  • Patricia Donahoe, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Jenna Galloway, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Andrew Brack, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital

Alumni

  • Graham Hickey, BS – PhD Program, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Eugene Curtin, MD – Plastic Surgery Residency Training, Ireland
  • Max Dougherty, BS – MD/PhD Program, University of Washington
  • George Kamel, MD – Surgery Residency, Mount Sinai, New York
  • Valeriy Shubinets, BS – Plastic Surgery Residency, University of Pennsylvania
  • William Tse, PhD – Assistant Professor, University of Hong Kong
  • Beste Kinikoglu, PhD – Assistant Professor, University of Istanbul
  • Tatiana Hoyos, MD – Surgical Residency, University of Washington
  • Jeremy Welbourn, Belmont Hill graduate – Harvard College
  • David Mattos, MD, MBA – Plastic Surgery Residency, Harvard Program

Our research projects include:

  • Zebrafish models of cleft lip and palate malformation
  • High throughput functional analysis of candidate genes implicated in facial morphogenesis
  • Neural crest biology of craniofacial development
  • Wnt signaling in craniofacial development
  • Cranial neural crest biology
  • Tissue engineering and vascularized constructs

Post-doctoral research fellowship positions are available; please arrange with Dr. Liao. Funding can be guaranteed for the candidate with appropriate experiences and references.

Job Description

The Liao Laboratory at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in affiliation with the Division of Plastic Surgery and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute is seeking a highly motivated research fellow interested in craniofacial developmental biology and malformations. The laboratory has innovated application of the zebrafish model toward the study of human craniofacial anomalies, contributing recent papers on zebrafish cleft models and cranial neural crest lineage maps. The fellow will join a collaborative group of scientists who study the basic and translational biology of facial morphogenesis, cranial neural crest specification and development. In this instance, the fellow’s work will have a direct bearing on discovery of drugs to mitigate malformation phenotypes and functional genomics of human candidate genes implicated in orofacial clefts. We are also inherently interested in the basic biology of neural crest cell specification, migration, differentiation and potential for regeneration. We integrate the approaches of classical developmental and modern stem cell biology and use these to explore human tissue regeneration and disease. We primarily work with the zebrafish model with collaborators in human and mouse genetics. We apply the latest technology in zebrafish genetics with routine use of TALENs and CRISPR, morpholinos, cell transplants, FACS, live confocal labeling and imaging, transgenics, chemical screening, and many other experimental approaches are routine. Our laboratory has a dedicated zebrafish facility outfitted with the latest imaging, injection and cell manipulation instruments. Researchers work in open format laboratory space that foster interactions with other stellar researchers working in CRM, with ample opportunities to participate in scientific seminars and professional development.

Job Requirements

The candidate should have PhD or an MD/PhD in a relevant field or equivalent training. A strong foundation in cell, developmental, or cancer biology with strong skills in molecular biology is necessary, including a foundation in the genetic modulation of a model organism. Prior experience working in zebrafish genetics is strongly desired but not a requirement. An ancillary knowledge of genomics or systems biology is welcome. Knowledge of human and clinical genetics is unnecessary, as it will be acquired rapidly within the laboratory environment. Outstanding oral and written communication skills are required.

Please email your CV, statement of interest and career goals, and names and contact information of at least three references to Eric Liao.

Genetic regulation of facial development

Dr. Eric Liao, director of the Craniofacial Developmental Biology Laboratory, conducts research on the genetic regulation of facial development.

Craniofacial Developmental Biology Laboratory

Simches Research Building
185 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-643-5975

Public Transportation Access: yes
Disabled Access: yes

For information about our work, or interest in collaboration or research positions, please contact Dr. Liao, cliao@partners.org, 617-643-5975.