A study from USC Stem Cell has revealed how a specific gene contributes to the development of bones, tendons and glands in the jaw.

All three develop from the same type of stem cell — known as neural crest-derived cells — which ideally develop into the right types of material in the correct parts of the jaw. The researchers honed in on a gene called Nr5a2 that is responsible for accurate development of facial glands and tendons and discovered that deactivating the gene resulted in jaw deformities in the test animals.

The results, published in Developmental Cell, show how a key stem cell factor can be manipulated in late-stage fetal development to control how diverse cell types are made.

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