Cranial neural crest cells are a multipotent, migratory cell population which is responsible for forming the majority of the bone, cartilage, nerves, and connective tissue of the head and face. Craniofacial abnormalities account for one third of all congenital birth defects, and are mainly attributed to defects in cranial neural crest cells. Because of their importance in craniofacial development, it is essential to understand the mechanisms underlying the formation and differentiation of this cell population. Therefore, my project involves examining the molecular signals necessary for the induction and patterning of the cranial neural crest in mice, in order to determine the mechanisms that regulate this cell type during development.
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