Dr. Hu ZhaoAssistant Professor
Department of Restorative Sciences
3302 Gaston Ave.
Dallas, Texas 75246
214-370-7225
hzhao@tamhsc.edu 

Education & Training

  • West China Univ. of Med. Sci.B. of Sci. Dental Sciences 1998
  • West China Univ. of Med. Sci.M. of Sci. Dental Sciences 1998 
  • Sichuan University Doctor of Sci. Dental Sciences 2001
  • University of Virginia MS Cell Biology 2003
  • University of Southern California, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology 2003-2007
  • University of Southern California, Research Associate, Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, 2008-2009
  • University of California, Los Angeles, CA DDS 2011
  • University of Southern California, Research Associate, Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, 2011-2015

Research Interests

I am a practicing dentist and devote a significant amount of effort on basic research to study stem cells in tooth and other craniofacial tissues  My research mainly focuses on the identification and localization of  stem cells and their regulating mechanisms during the homeostasis and injury repair of periodontal tissue. 

The periodontal ligament (PDL) is the fibrous tissue connecting the teeth and the alveolar bone and is critical for the physiological functions of teeth. Periodontal diseases are the most common reasons of tooth loss. Conventional treatments including surgical or non-surgical approaches yield limited effects on regenerating pathological periodontal tissue. Recent progress in stem cell biology have led to a promising novel therapy based on the ability PDL-derived stem cells to regenerate functioning periodontium. However, the further improvement of the stem cells based therapies are greatly impeded by the poor understanding of the PDL stem cells in vivo. Although in vitro studies have shown that multipotential stem cells can be isolated from the PDL and it was speculated that the PDL stem cells are crucial for multiple processes including tissue regeneration after injury or diseases, periodontal tissue turnover and orthodontic tooth movement. However, there was few information about the in vivo localization, identity or regulating niche of the PDL stem cells. 

In our previous study, we have identified Gli1+ cells surrounding the neurovascular bundle as the MSCs to support the incisor mesenchyme turnover and injury repair. The Wnt signaling pathway plays crucial roles on activating the quiescent  Gli1+ MSCs.  Furthermore, we also identified Gli1+ cells in the craniofacial bone sutures as the MSCs supporting craniofacial bones turnover and injury repair.

In my current research, we propose to test the hypothesis that PDL stem cells in the adult are localized near the apical region of the teeth and can be labeled with Gli1. These Gli1+ stem cells give rise to the PDL, cementum and alveolar bone. They support both natural turnover and injury repair of the PDL tissue and are regulated by Wnt signaling in vivo.  

For more on Dr. Zhao's research, see Dentistry Insider ...

Positions and Honors

Research and Professional Experience

  • 1998-2001 Research Associate, College of Dentistry, West China University of Medical Sciences
  • 1999-2000 Teaching Assistant, Department of Biomaterial and Biomedical Science, College of Dentistry, West China University of Medical Sciences
  • 2002-2003 Research Assistant, Barroso's lab, Department of Biology, University of Virginia
  • Spring, 2003 Teaching Assistant, Biol. 204, Department of Biology, University of Virginia
  • July,2015-Dec., 2015 Research Assistant Professor, Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, School of Dentistry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
  • Jan.,2016- Assistant Professor (tenure track), Department of Restorative Sciences, College of Dentistry, Texas A&M University, Dallas, TX

Academic Honors and Awards

  • 2015 Innovative Scientific Achievement Award, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California
  • 2015 First place, Graduate and post-doctoral Award. Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California
  • 2015 The Dean's Research Award, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California
  • 2015 Most Innovative Award, USC Stevens Center for Innovation
  • 2015 First place, Poster presentation. 2015 Annual Meeting of the Society for Craniofacial Genetics and Developmental Biology
  • 2014 Innovative Scientific Achievement Award, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California
  • 2014 First place, Graduate and post-doctoral Award. Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California
  • 2014 First place, Poster presentation. The Gordon Research Conference on bones and teeth

Selected Publications

  • Zhao, H., Chai, Y. (2015)  Stem Cells in Teeth and Craniofacial Bones. J. Dent. Res.  PMID: 26350960
  • Zhao, H., Feng, J.F., Urata, M., Chai, Y.  (2015) The suture mesenchyme provides a niche for mesenchymal stem cells of craniofacial bones.  Nature Cell Biology 17(4):386-96.  PMCID: PMC25799059
  • Zhao, H, Feng, J.F., Seidel, K., Shi S.T., Klein, O., Sharpe, P.T., Chai, Y. (2014) Secretion of Shh by a neurovascular bundle niche supports mesenchymal stem cell homeostasis in the adult mouse incisor. Cell Stem Cell. 14(2):160-73 PMCID: PMC3951379
  • Zhao, H., Li, S., Han, D., Chai, Y. (2011) Alk5-mediated transforming growth factor β signaling acts upstream of fibroblast growth factor 10 to regulate the proliferation and maintenance of dental epithelial stem cells. Mol. Cell Biol.  PMCID: PMC3133354
  • Zhao H, Oka K, Bringas P, Kaartinen V, Chai Y (2008). TGF-beta type I receptor Alk5 regulates tooth initiation and mandible patterning in a type II receptor-independent manner.  Dev. Biol., 320(1):19-29 PMCID: PMC3629921
  • Zhao H, Bringas P Jr, Chai Y. (2005).  An in vitro model for characterizing the post-migratory cranial neural crest cells of the first branchial arch. Dev Dyn. 235(5):1433-40  PMID:16245337

Complete List of Published Work in MyBibliography: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/hu.zhao.1/bibliography/48223998/public/?sort=date&direction=ascending 

Research Support

Current Research Support

Startup funding from the Texas A&M College of Dentistry; and K08 grant

1 K08 025090-01A1 Hu Zhao (PI) 2/01/2016-2/01/2020; NIH/NIDCR; In vivo Identity and niche of periodontal ligament stem cells; Role: PI