The Plastic Surgery Foundation
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Grants We Funded

Grant applicants for the 2021 cycle requested a total of over $3.3 million dollars. The PSF Study Section subcommittees of Basic & Translational Research and Clinical Research evaluated 106 grant applications on the following topics:

The PSF awarded research grants totaling more than $755,000 to support 25 plastic surgery research proposals.

ASPS/PSF leadership is committed to continuing to provide high levels of investigator-initiated research support to ensure that plastic surgeons have the needed research resources to be pioneers and innovators in advancing the practice of medicine.

Research Abstracts

Search The PSF database to have easy access to full-text grant abstracts from past PSF-funded research projects 2003 to present. All abstracts are the work of the Principal Investigators and were retrieved from their PSF grant applications. Several different filters may be applied to locate abstracts specific to a particular focus area or PSF funding mechanism.

Analysis of wnt9a Regulation of Vertebrate Facial Morphogenesis

Principal Investigator
Eric Chien-Wei Liao MD, PhD


Massachusetts General Hospital

Funding Mechanism

Focus Area

Cleft lip and palate malformation is one of the most common birth defects, where improved understanding of its genetic basis is critical to advance its treatment. Palate formation involves complex morphogenetic events which include neural crest cell migration and cell-cell signaling. Wnt signaling is critical for neural crest cell (NCC) migration and facial morphogenesis in vertebrates. The zebrafish is a powerful vertebrate model that can be used to study the genetic basis and mechanisms that pattern the early craniofacial skeleton. We have demonstrated that knockdown of wnt9a in zebrafish results in loss of ethmoid plate and failure of lower jaw structures to form. To investigate the role of wnt9a signaling on NCC migration, we have generated sox10::kaede transgenic lines. Endogenous sox10 gene expression is restricted to NCCs, while kaede, a fluorescent protein allows for cell specific labeling. Using this model, fate mapping analysis of NCC migration can be performed following wnt9a gene disruption to elucidate its role in palatogenesis and lower jaw development. Our second aim is to dissect Wnt regulatory pathway in zebrafish craniofacial development. We have recently shown expression patterns of wnt9a in zebrafish to be localized to the pharyngeal arch, oropharyngeal epithelium that circumscribes the ethmoid plate, and ectodermal cells superficial to the lower jaw structures. Wnt signaling can be modulated by antagonists including secreted Frizzled Related Proteins (sFRP). frzb is one gene which encodes a secreted protein with homology in the ligand binding domain to Wnt receptor Frizzled, but lacks the domain encoding the seven transmembrane segments. Furthermore, frzb has been shown to have similar spatial and temporal expression profile similar to that of wnt9a. To elucidate the key molecular pathway regulating differentiation of NCCs into the palate and jaw structures mRNA overexpression as well as morpholino disruption of frzb will be performed.

Eric C. Liao, M.D., Ph.D. is an Assistant in Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Shriners Hospital for Children. His clinical interests are in microsurgery reconstruction and pediatric plastic surgery. Dr. Liao is the principal investigator of the craniofacial laboratory with research focused on cleft lip and palate malformation utilizing innovative genetic approaches. His work is funded by several prestigious awards, including the American Surgical Association Research Fellowship, the Basil O’Connor Start Scholar Award from the March of Dimes, and current and past awards from the Plastic Surgery Education Foundation.