Photo of Mina Mina, D.M.D., M.S.D., Ph.D.

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Mina Mina, D.M.D., M.S.D., Ph.D.
Division of Pediatric Dentistry
UConn Health
263 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06030-1610
Phone: 860-679-4081
Fax: 860-679-4078
Email: mina@nso1.uchc.edu

Mina Mina, D.M.D., M.S.D., Ph.D.

Professor and Chair
Division of Pediatric Dentistry
Department of Craniofacial Sciences

Director
Skeletal, Craniofacial and Oral Biology Graduate Program

Mina Mina, is the chair of the Division of Pediatric Dentistry. Dr. Mina received her D.M.D degree from the National University of Iran, her certificate in Pediatric Dentistry and Master of Dental Science from Case Western Reserve University and Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from UConn Health. She joined the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Connecticut on January 1, 1989 as an assistant professor. She was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1996, full professor in 2002 and was named chair of the Division of Pediatric Dentistry at UConn Health in 2003. During her years at the UConn Health, she assumed clinical, teaching and administrative responsibilities. In addition, she has maintained an active research program focused on three areas related to craniofacial biology and has been continuously supported by a number of grants from NIH/NIDCR and private agencies.

Dr. Mina has served as a member of the NIDCR Study Section and on many ad hoc grant review committees including NIH, March of Dimes and Welcome Trust. Dr. Mina is engaged in the teaching of dental student and residents, medical students and graduate school. She is a member of the graduate faculty of Skeletal, Craniofacial and Oral Biology (SCOB) and the Genetics and Developmental Biology areas of concentration. She is currently the director of the SCOB area of concentration. Dr. Mina has served as the thesis advisor to eight Ph.D. students (including combined residency/Ph.D.) and eight Master of Dental Science students. She has supervised six post-doctoral fellows, and has served as associate advisor to more than 50 graduate students (including six D.M.D./Ph.D. students). Dr. Mina has also served as the research supervisor to five Pediatric Dentistry residents. She serves on the mentoring committees of five dental school faculty. In 2006, she received the IADR Distinguished Scientist Award for Craniofacial Biology Research and in 2008, the UConn Health Board of Directors Faculty Recognition Award. She has served on many UConn Health committees, is a consultant for the AAPD Council on Scientific Affairs, member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Conference on the Chemistry and Biology of Mineralized Tissues, the Scientific Advisory Board of the Conferences on Orthodontics Advances in Science and Technology (COAST), and a member of the Advisory Oversight Boards of two NIDCR T-32 Training Program Grants. She served as president of the Mineralized Tissue, member and chair of the AADR Hatton Award Committee, member and chair of the AADR Fellowships Committee, and member of the IADR/AADR Publication Committee.

Research Interests

The areas of focus for her research program are: 1) understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating outgrowth, morphogenesis and differentiation of the skeletal tissues in the developing mandible; 2) early signaling cascades regulating tooth formation; and 3) identification of stem cells and progenitor cells for tissue engineering of the tooth.

Current Programs

Odontoblasts are exclusively dentin-producing cells that are morphologically and functionally distinct from osteoblasts secreting bone matrix. However, the organic components of dentin matrix and bone are strikingly similar. Although much has been learned about the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate the progression of osteoprogenitor cells into fully differentiated osteoblasts, not much is known about the regulatory mechanisms involved in the differentiation program of odontoblasts. This has been due in part to difficulties in obtaining homogenous populations of progenitor cells for molecular analysis and the lack of suitable markers for identifying the intermediate stages of odontoblast differentiation. The overall goals of present studies in my laboratory is to use promoter-green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter transgenic mice as a novel experimental model to unravel the molecular mechanisms regulating the progression of neural crest-derived mesenchymal progenitor cells into odontoblasts. To this end, we have used pOBCol3.6GFP , pOBCol2.3GFP and DMP1-GFP transgenic mice as a model to develop markers for early stages of odontoblast differentiation from progenitor cells. Our studies showed that these transgenes were activated before the onset of matrix deposition and in cells at different stages of polarization. The 3.6-GFP transgene was activated in cells in early stages of polarization; the 2.3-GFP transgene was activated at a later stage of polarization just before or at the time of formation of secretory odontoblast and DMP1-GFP in secretory odontoblasts. Further experiments are in progress to examine the expression of other transgenes during odontoblast differentiation in vivo and in vitro to identify and isolate cells at additional intermediate stages during odontoblast differentiation.

The second project in my laboratory involves characterization of stem and progenitor cells in the dental pulp and their application towards engineering of the dentin-pulp complex. Our recent findings showed that that the dental pulp of the erupted molars contain a small population of multipotent cells, whereas the dental pulp of the unerupted molars does not contain multipotent cells but is enriched in osteo-dentinogenic progenitors engaged in the formation of coronal and radicular odontoblasts. Our additional studies in continuously erupting incisor of murine showed that the continuous generation of odontoblasts and dentin on the labial and lingual sides of incisors is supported by a progenitor population and not multipotent MSCs in the dental pulp. Present studies in the laboratory are examining the formation of the dentine0pulp complex from these identified progenitor population.

The third project in my laboratory is the formation of the mandibular arch. The early development of the branchial arches in humans, mice and chicken are similar. One of the long project in my laboratory focuses on the underling molecular changes in early embryos that regulates the outgrowth and morphogenesis of the mandibular arch. For these studies we have and continue to use chicken embryo as a model. The chicken embryo is ideal for these experiments since the environment can be locally changed in many ways either by local release of chemicals or by surgical manipulation. We have and continue to study the signaling pathways that regulating the outgrowth of the developing mandible by studying certain genes that have been were identified due to changes following the experimental manipulations.

Selected Publications

Balic A, Aguila HL, Caimano MJ, Francone VP, Mina M. Characterization of stem and progenitor cells in the dental pulp of erupted and unerupted murine molars. Bone 2010;46: 1639-51.

Balic A, Aguila HL, Mina M. Identification of cells at early and late stages of polarization during odontoblast differentiation using pOBCol3.6GFP and pOBCol2.3GFP transgenic mice. Bone 2010;47: 948-58.

Balic A, Mina M. Characterization of progenitor cells in pulps of murine incisors. J Dent Res 2010;89: 1287-92.

Balic A, Rodgers B, Mina M. Mineralization and expression of Col1a1-3.6GFP transgene in primary dental pulp culture. Cells Tissues Organs 2009;189: 163-8.

Balic A, Adams D, Mina M. Prx1 and Prx2 cooperatively regulate the morphogenesis of the medial region of the mandibular process. Dev Dyn 2009;238: 2599-613.

Doufexi AE, Mina M. Signaling pathways regulating the expression of Prx1 and Prx2 in the chick mandibular mesenchyme. Dev Dyn 2008;237: 3115-27.

Havens BA, Velonis D, Kronenberg MS, Lichtler AC, Oliver B, Mina M. Roles of FGFR3 during morphogenesis of Meckel's cartilage and mandibular bones. Dev Biol 2008;316: 336-49.

Li H, Marijanovic I, Kronenberg MS, Erceg I, Stover ML, Velonis D, Mina M, Heinrich JG, Harris SE, Upholt WB, Kalajzic I, Lichtler AC. Expression and function of Dlx genes in the osteoblast lineage. Dev Biol 2008;316: 458-70.

MacKenzie B, Wolff R, Lowe N, Billington CJ, Jr., Peterson A, Schmidt B, Graf D, Mina M, Gopalakrishnan R, Petryk A. Twisted gastrulation limits apoptosis in the distal region of the mandibular arch in mice. Dev Biol 2009;328: 13-23.

Paper icon View more publications, see Pubmed listing.

Available Rotation Projects

Please contact Dr. Mina for rotation projects.

Laboratory Personnel

Research Assistant
Barbra Rodgers
Graduate Students
Karen Sagomonyants Marcos Frozoni
Alumni
Anamaria Balic

Veta Daufexi

Bruce Havens

Alen Braut

Jelica Gluhak
Akis Mais

Y.H. Wanf

Carolyn Lucy

Chanda Roberts