Dental Hard Tissue Lab
Histological Preparation and Analysis Facilities
I manage laboratory facilities for the generation of high resolution molds and casts, histological thin sectioning of hard tissues, and high resolution imaging using stereo microscopy and polarized light microscopy. Fluorescent light microscopy is available through the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery. Trace element analysis is performed at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai through a collaboration with Professor Manish Arora. High resolution tomographic imaging (microCT) is performed at the Translational Research Institute Australia. Synchrotron imaging is performed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility through a collaboration with Dr. Paul Tafforeau. MicroCT data analysis is performed in the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution’s Virtual Anthropology Laboratory. More information on histological thin sectioning may be found here.
Dental Microstructure Studies
Dental development in humans and great apes begins prior to birth and continues throughout adolescence. Like many biological systems, hard tissue formation is characterized by a circadian rhythm. Developmental rate and time are permanently recorded by incremental lines in enamel and dentine, which remain unchanged in these tissues for millions of years. Given that dental remains are the most common, well-preserved type of fossil evidence for extinct species of primates, examination of incremental growth processes may shed new light on the evolutionary developmental biology of early humans.
Examination of hard tissue development from a histological perspective is a relatively new field of odontological inquiry. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of studies on incremental dental development in hominoids. Studies on Plio-Pleistocene hominids and Neanderthals have indicated that the relatively slow developmental rate and prolonged duration of modern human crown formation may be a fairly recent and unique development.
Histological analysis of dental material facilitates understanding of the final functional products of the processes of development and growth, which may be understood in terms of enamel thickness (macrostructure) and enamel microstructure. Recent studies have provided information on age at death in hominins with developing dentitions, absolute and relative timing of dental development, age at first emergence, and differences in the developmental pathways of enamel formation. These studies have important implications for our understanding of hominin evolution and the origin of developmentally modern humans.
FORMER LAB MEMBERS
Doctoral Student (Harvard PhD 2017)
Research interests: Dental microstructure, isotopic chemistry, reconstruction of tooth growth and life history, human evolution in the Plio-Pleistocene.
Honors Student & Research Associate (Wellesley College BS 2014)
Research interests: Dental and skeletal development, life history reconstruction, and dental microstructure.
Research interests: Dental development and structure, three-dimensional tooth structures in early human development.
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Research interests: Tooth virtual histology (for life history reconstruction), bone microanatomy and histology (for paleoecological studies), squamate evolution.
Dr. Nancy Tang
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Lab Manager
Research Interests: Discovering what teeth can tell us about development, life history, and death using virtual histology and conventional laboratory techniques.
Honors Student & Research Associate (Harvard AB 2009)
Research Interests: Enamel macro- and microstructure, dental development.