Facial Nerve Regeneration Lab

Identifying New Means of Treating Facial Paralysis

Facial paralysis is a debilitating condition that affects thousands of people.  The loss of movement on one side of the face can distort the appearance of one’s face during emotional expression, impact speech, the ability to eat and drink normally, and the health of one’s eye. When appropriate, surgery can help to rehabilitate a patient with facial paralysis. Despite excellent surgical technique, we are currently limited by the regenerative capacity of the body and perfect symmetry is impossible to restore.

Co-directed by Dr. Jon-Paul Pepper and Dr. Iram Ahmad, the mission of our research is to identify new methods of increasing the capacity of the body to regenerate the facial nerve after injury. 

We do this by exploring the regenerative cues that are normally used to restore tissue after nerve injury, in particular through pathways of neurogenesis, nerve injury response, and Schwann cell response after injury.

Hedgehog-responsive cells in the regenerating mouse facial nerve


Fibroblasts and Facial Nerve Regeneration

Hedgehog-responsive fibroblasts

Lineage tracing in transgenic mice reveals a unique population of injury-responsive fibroblasts that are present within the facial nerve, and respond impressively to injury. These cells appear to help restore the three dimensional architecture of the nerve after injury, and may represent a new therapeutic target for the treatment of high grade facial nerve injury.

Schwann Cell Response in Facial Nerve Regeneration

Merlin expression in Schwann Cells after injury

A key signaling gene, Merlin, has been shown to drive P75 expression in Schwann Cells after injury.  Knockout models of Merlin regenerate more slowly than wildtype counterparts.  Our current research explores other key signaling pathways that drive the glial response to facial nerve injury. 


Communicative Participation in Facial Paralysis

Communication in Facial Paralysis

Comparison of communicative participation (as reflected by CPIB theta scores +/- SD) between facial paralysis and other populations cited from previously published literature. Facial paralysis appears to cause a profound deficit in communicative participation.


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