Yingzi Yang, Ph.D.

Yingzi Yang, Ph.D.

Harvard School of Dental Medicine
Yingzi Yang photo credit Harvard School of Dental Medicine

Yingzi Yang's research has bridged discoveries of fundamental mechanisms with the characterization and treatment of diseases including severe birth defects, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and heterotopic bone formation.

The Yang lab uses molecular, cellular, genetic and genomic approaches to investigate critical roles of cell signaling in embryonic morphogenesis and adult physiology. We mainly focus on the mammalian limb, skeleton and liver, and we are exploiting these systems to explore human biology and address the underlying pathological mechanisms of diseases.

Cell-cell signaling plays essential and pivotal roles in both development and physiology. We are particularly interested in the Wnt, Hedgehog, Hippo and GPCR signaling pathways that are evolutionarily conserved and regulate a diverse array of biological processes. Mutations in components of these signaling pathways cause devastating birth defects, degenerative disorders and cancer.

Our work has provided insights into several fundamental aspects of tissue and organ morphogenesis in the limb and skeleton and tumor formation in the liver. We are continuing our efforts of bridging discoveries of fundamental mechanisms with characterization and treatment of human diseases. Our research aims to:

  1. understand the role of signaling pathways in cell fate determination. We are investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms that govern fate choices of differentiating mesenchymal progenitor/stem cells under both physiological and pathological conditions.
  2. understand the function of directional information in development and disease. We are investigating the regulatory mechanisms whereby Wnt signaling controls planar cell polarity (PCP) in various aspects of embryonic morphogenesis and adult physiology.
  3. understand the molecular and cellular mechanism underlying  mechanotransduction in the skeletal system. The musculoskeletal system generates and is also highly regulated by mechanic forces. We are investigating the roles of the Wnt and Hippo signaling pathways in mediating the effects of mechanotransduction in mesenchymal stem cells.


Yingzi Yang is Associate Dean for Translational Research, Professor of Developmental Biology, and Director of Biological Sciences in Dental Medicine (BSDM) PhD Program at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. 

Yang completed her B.S. degree from the Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and trained in the U.S.studying Wnt and Hedgehog signaling in early limb patterning under the guidance of Dr. Lee Niswander at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute, where she was awarded her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology by the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in mammalian developmental biology and genetics in the laboratory of Dr. Andy McMahon at Harvard University. In 2000 she became an investigator at the Genetic Disease Research Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), focusing on skeletal biology. Yang was head of the Developmental Genetics Section and a senior investigator of NHGRI. She joined HSDM as Professor of Developmental Biology in 2014.

Dr. Yang has received many honors and awards during her scientific career. She is the recipient of Vincent du Vigneaud Award of Excellence from the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Postdoctoral fellowship award from the Cancer Research Fund of the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation, NIH Award of Merit, SCBA Young investigator award and NIH APAO Outstanding Achievements and Merit Scholarship Award.


Contact Information

Research Interest(s)