Richard Schneider, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
Department of Cell & Tissue Biology
Department of Orofacial Sciences
+1 415 502-3788
Research Overview: 

Craniofacial development is a highly dynamic and hierarchical process that involves multiple gene regulatory networks, distinct embryonic lineages, and reciprocal signaling interactions among cells and tissues.  Mechanisms that orchestrate the various aspects of this complex process and ultimately enable the neural, skeletal, muscular, vascular, and epidermal components of the head to become structurally and functionally integrated, remain unclear.  Our research focuses on the role of one progenitor population, the neural crest, during craniofacial development.  Neural crest cells originate along the dorsal margins of the neural tube, and they migrate extensively throughout the head.  Their derivatives include dermis, cartilages, bones, and tendons, and they interact extensively with non-neural crest-derived elements such as blood vessels, osteoclasts, muscles, epidermis, and nerves.   

To determine the extent to which neural crest cells regulate the size, shape, and integration of craniofacial components during development and evolution, we created a novel surgical transplantation system that exploits species-specific differences in the anatomy and growth rates of Japanese quail and white Pekin duck.  The experimental approach is simple:  we exchange neural crest cells between quail and duck embryos, which causes faster-developing quail cells and relatively slower-maturing duck cells to interact with one another.  Chimeras are challenged to integrate molecular and cellular programs of quail versus duck.  By assaying for donor-induced changes to the formation of bone, cartilage, muscle, tendon, nerves, and other tissues, we have been able to identify mechanisms that control species-specific size and shape.  A goal is to devise novel therapies for regenerating tissues affected by birth defects, disease, and trauma.  Our work has also helped elucidate the generative role of development during evolution.

Primary Thematic Area: 
Developmental & Stem Cell Biology
Secondary Thematic Area: 
Tissue / Organ Biology & Endocrinology
Research Summary: 
Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Craniofacial Development and Evolution


Featured Publications: 

Neural crest-mediated bone resorption is a determinant of species-specific jaw length.

Developmental biology

Ealba EL, Jheon AH, Hall J, Curantz C, Butcher KD, Schneider RA

Multiple developmental mechanisms regulate species-specific jaw size.

Development (Cambridge, England)

Fish JL, Sklar RS, Woronowicz KC, Schneider RA

Evolution of a developmental mechanism: Species-specific regulation of the cell cycle and the timing of events during craniofacial osteogenesis.

Developmental biology

Hall J, Jheon AH, Ealba EL, Eames BF, Butcher KD, Mak SS, Ladher R, Alliston T, Schneider RA

The genesis of cartilage size and shape during development and evolution.

Development (Cambridge, England)

Eames BF, Schneider RA

Mesenchyme-dependent BMP signaling directs the timing of mandibular osteogenesis.

Development (Cambridge, England)

Merrill AE, Eames BF, Weston SJ, Heath T, Schneider RA

The cellular and molecular origins of beak morphology.

Science (New York, N.Y.)

Schneider RA, Helms JA