School of Dental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Ralf Kist

Lecturer in Oral Biology



I studied at the University of Freiburg, Germany and received a Diploma in Biology (equivalent to a BSc/MSc) in 1997. With a background in human genetics research, I became interested in developing mouse models for human diseases. During my PhD studies at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Health in Munich, I generated and characterised a mouse model for the skeletal malformation syndrome campomelic dysplasia. From 2001 to 2007, I worked as a research associate in the laboratory of Dr. Heiko Peters at the Institute of Human Genetics in Newcastle where I focused on craniofacial and tooth development in mice. In 2007, I was awarded a University Research Fellowship to develop a research theme into genetic mechanisms of oral epithelial differentiation and disease. In 2010, I was appointed Lecturer in Oral Biology at the School of Dental Sciences.


1997  Diploma (BSc/MSc) in Biology (University of Freiburg, Germany)
2004  PhD in Genetics (University of Freiburg, Germany)

Previous positions

2001-2007  Research Associate, Institute of Human Genetics, Newcastle University
2007-2009  University Research Fellow, Institute of Human Genetics, Newcastle University

Area of expertise
Craniofacial and tooth development
Taste and filiform papilla development
Oral and tongue epithelial differentiation
Oral disease
Oral cancer


Centre for Oral Health Research
Institute of Genetic Medicine
The Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland

Honours and Awards

2005  Mammalian Genome Prize, Mammalian Genetics and Development Workshop, London
2008  Poster Prize, Gordon Research Conference “Craniofacial Morphogenesis and Tissue Regeneration”, Lucca, Italy
2013  BDIAP Poster Prize, Edinburgh Pathology Meeting, Edinburgh

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SCOPUS: Click here.


Research Interests

Craniofacial and tooth development
Taste and filiform papilla development
Cell differentiation of the oral and tongue epithelium
Genetic mechanisms of oral disease and cancer 

Current Research

The epidermis of the skin and the epithelia lining the tongue and oral cavity are classified as stratified squamous epithelia and develop from a common embryological origin, the ectoderm. However, their individual characteristics and functions are substantially different suggesting that different genetic pathways regulate this regional specification. For example, the epidermis contains hair whereas filiform and taste papillae develop on the dorsal surface of the tongue. These ‘mini organs’ are comprehensively termed ectodermal appendages and their formation is regulated by reciprocal molecular interactions between epithelial and mesenchymal cells. In contrast to the intensive research efforts to understand skin development and disease, very little is known about the molecular mechanisms that control epithelial cell differentiation of the tongue and oral mucosa. As a consequence, the genetic causes or risk factors for many oral diseases have not yet been identified.
My research focuses on the identification of genes and the analysis of their interactions and functions during development and differentiation of the tongue and oral epithelium. We compare normal and abnormal formation of oral tissues in mice and humans using histology, molecular biology and imaging techniques. This work will lead to a better understanding of the causes of oral diseases and oral cancer and could eventually be used to develop novel or refined diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. 


Dr. Heiko Peters, Institute of Genetic Medicine
Dr. Julia Reichelt, Institute of Cellular Medicine
Dr. Max Robinson, School of Dental Sciences

Other Expertise

I have more than 15 years of experience in mouse genetics and the generation and analysis of disease models. In my laboratory, we use a wide range of techniques such as standard molecular biology techniques, quantitative real-time PCR, DNA microarrays, histology, RNA in situ hybridisation, immunohistochemical staining; microscopy and image analysis, (embryonic stem) cell culture, tissue micro-dissection and organ culture.

Postgraduate Supervision

PhD Students
MRes Students

Esteem Indicators

Review Editor: Frontiers in Physiology (Craniofacial Biology, Oncology)
Reviewer: Oral Diseases
Editor: Scientific Reports


University Research Fellowship
Newcastle Healthcare Charity
The Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland


Undergraduate Teaching

Stage 1 BDS  Course leader: Cell Biology
                       Contributor: Introduction to Dentistry, Dental Physiology, Orientation and Study skills

Stage 2 BDS  Course leader: Craniofacial and Tooth Biology

BSc Undergraduate project supervisor

Nomination for Newcastle Teaching Excellence Award 2013 ("Taught Supervisor of the Year")
Shortlisted for Newcastle Teaching Excellence Award 2016 ("Taught Supervisor of the Year")
Nomination for Newcastle Teaching Excellence Award 2016 ("Innovative Teaching Methods")

Postgraduate Teaching

Orthodontic postgraduate craniofacial study day

Deputy Regional Research Student Advisor for Dental Sciences