The Plastic Surgery Foundation
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Grants We Funded

In 2019, The Plastic Surgery Foundation (The PSF) awarded 33 investigator-initiated projects and allocated $891,274 to support the newest, clinically relevant research in plastic surgery.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons/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.

Real time fate mapping of palatogenic cranial neural crest cells

Principal Investigator
Eric Chien-Wei Liao MD, PhD


Massachusetts General Hospital (The General Hospital Corp.)

Funding Mechanism
Pilot Research Grant

Focus Area
Cranio / Maxillofacial / Head and Neck, Other

Palatogenesis involves complex cellular movement and morphogenesis events that are difficult to study in a mammalian model. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a powerful model for studying palate development owing to its developmental, genetic, and practical characteristics. Several studies have established that the zebrafish embryonic ethmoid plate is analogous to mammalian
palate structure. Zebrafish embryos develop ex vivo and are transparent, where migratory neural crest cells can be fate-mapped in real time. Lineage-specific labeling of migrating neural crest cells could be achieved by generating a transgenic fish where the sox10 promoter drives the expression of the green-to-red photoconvertable protein, kaede. Endogenous sox10 gene expression is restricted to neural crest cells, oligodendrocytes, and the otic epithelium. Therefore, the
sox10:kaede transgenic will provide a powerful method of following neural crest cells migrating to form the face at single-cell resolution, in real time. Our first specific aim is to generate a sox10::kaede transgenic zebrafish.
Our second specific aim is to use sox10::kaede to trace neural crest cell lineage in the context of gene knockdown and mutant zebrafish. The results of these lineage tracing experiments will be compared to previous work on zebrafish neural crest migration, to improve our
understanding of this intricate process. In addition to being well suited for genetic manipulations, zebrafish have also been used to successfully identify chemical modifiers of vascular and hematopoietic phenotypes.
Our third aim is to dissect the Wnt regulatory pathway in zebrafish oropharyngeal
development, with functional and biochemical analysis of Wnt9a. Wnt signaling provides important
cues regulating migration of neural crest cells that form the vertebrate craniofacial structures. We are exploiting the advantages of the zebrafish system to elucidate the role of Wnt signaling in palatogenesis, through morphogenetic studies of Wnt9a.

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.