If craniofacial development research doesn’t exactly ring a bell, Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal, Associate Professor of Biology at Mount Saint Vincent University, is happy to explain.
“We study how skulls develop and how cells organize themselves to create the shapes of skulls we see today. For example, an elephant skull is different than a mouse skull but the same cells make the bone.”
Dr. Franz-Odendaal has led a team of researchers in the Bone Development Lab since 2006. With $159,837 in Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT) funding, Dr. Franz-Odendaal was able to add an on-campus fish facility and microscopy suite. With this new technology, the team has been able to advance their research through the observation of zebrafish and other small, bony fish.
“We recently used zebrafish to study gravity’s effect on the development of the skeleton to understand whether organisms would develop normally in space,” says Dr. Franz Odendaal, referencing a past project funded by the Canadian Space Agency. Other studies have explored the relationship between the developing eye and skull.
“We discovered that the development of the lens of the eye is connected with development of teeth in jaws. Our hope is that these findings help clinicians understand a variety of disorders they may encounter.”
The Bone Development Lab receives additional funding from Mount Saint Vincent University, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation (NSHRF), and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI).