Resolving 3D Relationships of Embryonic Cranial Cartilage and Bone to Understand Craniofacial Disease

Date and Time
Joan Richtsmeier

The chondrocranium is a transient structure primarily composed of cartilage that forms in all vertebrates to support the embryonic brain and other sense organs prior to the formation of the bony skull. Embryologists of the early 1900s studied the anatomy of the chondrocranium and produced 3D models of hand reconstructions of relatively thick histological sections. More recent studies of the chondrocranium are based on thin histological sections but reconstructions remain imperfect. Without a full 3D model of the chondrocranium, it is difficult to understand its changing anatomy during prenatal development and its function with respect to the bony skull that forms around it and eventually merges with it. Working closely with the Center for Quantitative Imaging, we developed protocols for staining embryonic mice with phosphotungstic acid to make embryonic cartilage visible by x-ray. High-resolution computed tomography imaging of stained embryos has allowed us to resolve the 3D morphology of the chondrocranium and work towards an understanding of its relationship to the bony skull, as well as its function in craniofacial development and disease.

This webinar is part of the Energy and the Environment Sustainability Laboratories' 2021 Seminar Series