The future of research in craniofacial biology and what this will mean for oral health professional education and clinical practice


  • HC Slavkin

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, Ostrow School of Dentistry, The University of Southern California, California, USA
    • Address for correspondence:

      Dr Harold C Slavkin

      Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology

      Ostrow School of Dentistry

      University of Southern California

      2250 Alcazar Street – CSA 103

      Los Ángeles, California 90033



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Today, and looking to the future, scientific discoveries from cellular, developmental and molecular biology inform our understanding of cell, tissue and organ morphogenesis as exemplified in skin, bone, cartilage, dentine, enamel, muscle, nerve and many organs such as salivary glands and teeth. Present day biomedical science yields principles for the biomimetic design and fabrication of cells, tissues and organs. Bioengineering has become a strategy that can ‘mimic’ biological processes, and inform clinical procedures for tissue and organ replacements. The future of regenerative craniofacial biology holds enormous promise for the diagnosis and treatment of congenital birth defects, traumatic injuries, degenerative chronic diseases as well as for Mendelian single gene and complex multigene diseases and disorders. The past 50 years have heralded the completion of the human genome and the introduction of ‘personalized medicine and dentistry’, the utilization of stem cell therapy for an array of diseases and disorders, the ‘proof of principle’ to reverse select inherited diseases such as anhidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (ED), and the fruits from interdisciplinary research drawn from the diverse biomedical sciences. Looking to the future, we can readily anticipate as major goals to emphasize the clinician's role in identifying clinical phenotypes that can lead to differential diagnosis, and rejuvenate missing or damaged tissues by establishing processes for the utilization of gene, cell and/or protein therapies. The future is replete with remarkable opportunities to enhance clinical outcomes for congenital as well as acquired craniofacial malformations. Clinicians play a pivotal role because critical thinking and sound clinical acumen substantially improve diagnostic precision and thereby clinical health outcomes.