BBS Faculty Member - Bjorn Olsen

Bjorn Olsen

Department of Developmental Biology

Harvard School of Dental Medicine
Developmental Biology REB 409B
188 Longwood Ave
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-432-1874
Fax: 617-432-0638
Lab Members: 10 postdoctoral fellows, 1 graduate student

Research Activities

My laboratory studies skeletal and vascular morphogenesis, growth and remodeling/repair. Work is currently directed at three project areas.

In the first project we study pathogenetic mechanisms of infantile hemangioma, the most common tumor in childhood. Occurring in up to 10% of Caucasian infants, hemangiomas go through a period of high proliferative activity during the first year of life before they involute and undergo regression to a fibro-fatty residue. We have identified signaling abnormalities in hemangioma endothelial cells that provide an explanation for the rapid growth of the tumors and are studying the mechanisms responsible for the slow involution and regression.

In the second project we investigate mechanisms that control the development and homeostasis of the vertebrate skeleton, using a combination of human and mouse genetics and studies of cells in culture. We have identified processes by which vascular endothelial cells transition to mesenchymal stem-like cells and differentiate to cartilage and bone in patients with a genetic disorder of progressive ectopic bone formation. In recent studies we have also discovered that vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF) regulates mesenchymal stem cell differentiation to osteoblasts and adipocytes by an intracellular mechanism.

In the third project we study the mechanisms by which extracellular matrix molecules contribute to vascular and skeletal structure and function and how cells regulate extracellular matrix homeostasis.

Last Update: 6/20/2014


For a complete listing of publications click here.



Jinnin, M, Medici, D, Park, L, Limaye, N, Liu, Y, Boscolo, E, Bischoff, J, Viikkula, M, Boye, E, Olsen, BR. Suppressed NFAT-dependent VEGFR1 expression and constitutive VEGFR2 signaling in infantile hemangioma. Nat. Med., 2008, 14:1236-1246.

Medici, D, Shore, EM, Lounev, VY, Kaplan, FS, Kalluri, R, Olsen, BR. Conversion of vascular endothelial cells into multipotent stem-like cells. Nat Med 2010, 16: 1400-1406.

Liu, Y, Berendsen, A, Jia, S, Lotinun, S, Baron, R, Ferrara, N, Olsen, BR. Intracellular VEGF regulates the balance between osteoblast and adipocyte differentiation. J Clin Invest, 2012; 122:3101-3112.

Olsen, BR, Kalluri, R. Type XVIII collagen is essential for survival during acute liver injury. Dis Model Mech, 2013, 6:942-951.

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