1. Brain development & neurocognitive function

Microcephaly and macrocephaly are characterized by undergrowth or overgrowth of the brain, respectively. These abnormal brain growths are often associated with cognitive dysfunctions in individuals with autism, intellectual disability, and vascular brain injury. We use microcephaly/macrocephaly disease genes as an entry point to investigate neural progenitor cell (NPC) proliferation & differentiation, neuronal morphogenesis, and neurovascular interaction in health and diseases. We aim to identify novel disease mechanisms and therapeutic targets for developmental brain disorder and injury.

2. Stem cell & tissue regeneration, and craniofacial neuroscience

Craniofacial malformations account for close to one-third of all birth anomalies and significantly compromise the quality of live for these patients. We investigate neurological abnormalities in craniofacial disorders such as neurocognitive dysfunctions in craniosynostosis, a congenital craniofacial disorder. We also study the neuronal regulation of craniofacial stem/progenitor cell, injury repair, and tissue regeneration. We aim to provide neuroscience perspectives to craniofacial development and diseases.

3. Human iPSC cells & organoids to model brain and craniofacial disorders

We use CRISPR/Cas9 approaches to introduce disease mutations into human iPSCs followed by the differentiation into brain organoids and different cell types, such as neural progenitor cells (NPCs), neurons, pericytes, neural crest cells (NCCs), and suture stem cells (SuSCs).  We aim to use these in vitro/ ex vivo human models to identify new disease mechanisms and therapeutic strategies for brain and craniofacial disorders. Meanwhile, we are interested in generating large amounts of relevant cells from pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) to treat craniofacial and neurological diseases. For example, we aim to generate highly uniform PSC-derived suture stem cells (SuSCs) as the off-the-shelf stem cell-based product to effectively treat craniosynostosis.