Jessi Cook

UC San Francisco

“Distinct Subpopulations of Fibroblasts Exist Within the Oral Mucosa to Facilitate Wound Repair “

Fibroblasts are critical players in wound response and represent a heterogenous and functionally diverse population, unique to each tissue in the body. Currently, very little is known about the oral mucosal fibroblast subpopulations and the role they play in the rapid and efficient wound healing seen within the oral cavity. This project defines the characteristics and potential functions of several fibroblast subpopulations and identifies key pathways that are distinctly regulated within the tissue in comparison to the skin.


The oral mucosa (OM) repairs wounds more efficiently than any other barrier site in the adult human body, allowing for scarless healing in just 1-3 days. The cellular and molecular dynamics of this process are currently not understood. My project investigates the heterogenous population of fibroblasts in the oral mucosa in comparison to those in the skin, probing the complex population and signaling differences between the two tissues. To define the identities of oral mucosal fibroblast (OMF) subpopulations responsive to wounding, I examined the transcriptional responses of OMFs to mechanical injury in a mouse model. My analytical approach defined fibroblast subtypes in the wound beds of both tissues, as well as evaluated the timing and intensity of response in each tissue through signaling network analysis. My work reveals eight novel OMF subpopulations and several pathways related to wound response that are uniquely utilized within the OM when compared to the skin. Collectively, these data reveal that the OM is home to a diverse population of fibroblasts that play roles in all aspects of wound healing.

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