Skip Navigation
Multi Photo Banner
About The School Header Image

Open House Showcases New Center for Craniofacial Research

Friday, May 17, 2013 - 10:11am

Dr. Jackie Hecht (right) chats with visitors at the Open House for the Center for Craniofacial Research.

Associate Dean for Research Jacqueline Hecht, PhD, (far right) chats with Dr. Dharini  van der Hoeven and Dr. Yasmine Haddad at the Center for Craniofacial Research's Open House May 14. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

At an open house this week, The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston unveiled its newest state-of-the-art laboratory facilities inside the UT Behavioral and Biomedical Sciences (BBS) Building adjacent to the School of Dentistry. The buildings are connected on four levels.

The BBS fourth floor will house UTSD’s Center for Craniofacial Research, and during the open house, guests got a peek at the area’s cutting-edge research space and equipment.

“Securing and outfitting this valuable research space are major steps forward for UTSD and help solidify our foundation for becoming a world-class center for dental research,” said Dean John A. Valenza, DDS. “Through the collaborative efforts of UTSD faculty and their teams, the Center for Craniofacial Research will foster innovative research that will lead to new advances and treatments in oral health.”

The approximately 9,000-square-foot laboratory includes a vast array of work benches, as well as a microscope room that will feature high quality fluorescent and dissecting microscopes. The lab has multiple rooms with deep-freeze equipment to store DNA, cell cultures and tissue samples that require temperatures of minus 80 degrees Celsius. There is even a liquid nitrogen tank for cells requiring minus 195 C temperatures. The new facility also includes an additional 2,000 square feet of office and “dry lab” space to support researchers assigned to the fourth floor, but also for special projects, such as informatics. 

From left, Dr. Gena Tribble, Dr. Kathleen Gibson, Dr. John McMahon and Dr. Ted Pate visit the new facilities of the UTSD Center for Craniofacial Research.

From left, Dr. Gena Tribble, Dr. Kathleen Gibson, Dr. John McMahon and Dr. Ted Pate visit the new facilities of the Center for Craniofacial Research in UT's Behavioral & Biomedical Sciences Building adjacent to the School of Dentistry. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

The Center for Craniofacial Research will also include investigators from other UT Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) components doing research related to craniofacial disorders, said Jacqueline Hecht, PhD, MS, professor and associate dean for research at UTSD. The center will feature both basic and clinical research, with the eventual goal of having the entire floor humming with faculty researchers, postdoctoral fellows, students and other investigators.  

“We’re really excited about the potential to spread our wings and significantly expand our research presence,” Hecht said.

School of Dentistry researchers already use laboratory and office space on the fifth and sixth floors of the BBS.  Having this new research area on the fourth floor provides a crucial collegial environment where faculty pursuing similar research projects can collaborate, said Walid Fakhouri, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Diagnostic and Biomedical Sciences.

Fakhouri will be among the researchers using the new lab space. He is working to identify gene mutations related to craniofacial disorders such as cleft palates and small mandibular jaws that cause malocclusions.

The center’s new research space and equipment will allow faculty to translate knowledge gained in the lab into real-world treatments, he added.