NIDCR Grand Rounds: Women in Science

Dr. Millie Embree

Rescheduled Date: November 13, 2020

Stem Cells in Jaw Growth and Disease
Millie Embree, MS DMD PhD





The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a complex joint and the only bilateral joints that must function together as one unit to support mastication and speech. TMJ trauma and diseases, such as osteoarthritis, can be debilitating and severely reduce quality of life. Current TMJ treatments generally involve either pain management or invasive surgeries, such as total joint replacement surgery. There are no minimally invasive, regenerative TMJ therapies.  Dr. Embree and her lab have identified TMJ-specific fibrocartilage stem cells that self-organize and regenerate cartilage, fat, and vascularized bone. She has defined diverse populations of TMJ fibrocartilage stem cells and the signals regulating their fate in jaw development and disease. In ongoing work, she seeks to therapeutically exploit endogenous fibrocartilage stem cells as a potential strategy for TMJ regeneration using a pre-clinical large animal model. Her studies aim to assist development of a non-surgical, minimally invasive stem cell-based therapy for TMJ regeneration.

Presenter’s Bio

Dr. Millie Embree is the Dr. Edwin S. Robinson Assistant Professor of Dental Medicine (Orthodontics) at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and was recently appointed the associate director for the Center for Dental and Craniofacial Research at Columbia University. She completed her DMD and PhD in cell biology at the Medical University of South Carolina. During this time, she took advantage of the NIH Graduate Partnerships Program and worked with Dr. Marian Young (senior investigator, Molecular Biology of Bones & Teeth Section, NIDCR) to complete her graduate thesis examining the role of extracellular matrix proteoglycans in TMJ osteoarthritis. To optimize the clinical application of her research, she completed an orthodontic residency at Columbia University School of Dentistry and was recruited to her current faculty position. Dr. Embree and her team focus on TMJ biology and disease, stem cells, and stem cell-based cartilage and bone regeneration.  Her laboratory uses a combination of stem cell/molecular biology methods and clinical questions to shape the direction of each scientific project.  Overall, Dr. Embree's research aims to improve current treatment modalities for patients with TMJ and musculoskeletal diseases.

Selected References

Morel, M; Ruscitto, A; Pylawka, S; Reeve, G; Embree, MC. Extracellular matrix turnover and inflammation in chemically-induced TMJ arthritis mouse models. PloS One. 2019; 14 (10):e0223244.

Embree, MC; Chen, M; Pylawka, S; Kong, D; Iwaoka, GM; Kalajzic, I; Yao, H; Shi, C; Sun, D; Sheu, T-J; Koslovsky, DA; Koch, A; Mao, JJ. Exploiting endogenous fibrocartilage stem cells to regenerate cartilage and repair joint injury. Nature Communications. 2016 10 10; 7 :13073.

About the NIDCR Clinical Research Fellowship Grand Rounds:

NIDCR Clinical Research Fellowship Grand Rounds began in early 2014 and occur four times a year.  Leading scientists and clinicians address advances in clinical, translational, and basic research in areas related to the dental, oral, and craniofacial complex and bone metabolism.

Last Reviewed
March 2020

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