My research interests involve skin, epidermal development and regeneration, and orofacial clefts. The homeostasis of the epidermis is provided by stem cells that persist through the lifetime of the organism and allow the continous renewal of the tissue. These epidermal cells (keratinocytes) execute a well-ordered program of differentiation that leads to four distinct layers, the outermost provinding a barrier function to the environment. We identified Interferon Regulatory Factor 6 (Irf6) as a key regulator of epidermal proliferation and differentiation. Also, Kondo et al (2002) showed that Irf6 mutations cause two orofacial clefting syndromes. Interestingly, patients with one of these syndrome (Van der Woude) have increased chance of wound complications after cleft surgical repair compared to patients with isolated clefts, suggesting that IRF6 may play a role in wound healing. We are currently investigating the idea that palatal development and cutaneous wound healing accomplish the common anatomic need, to close a hole and form a seam, using common genes and pathways.