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Dental School Research Team Participates in NIH-Funded Biomarkers Study

Dental School Research Team Participates in NIH-Funded Biomarkers Study

Periodontal disease, the leading cause of tooth loss, affects more than 60 million Americans. Diabetes, heart disease and respiratory conditions are closely correlated with the infectious disease, making
it even more dangerous. To address this growing problem, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has chosen SIUE, along with four other academic institutions, to conduct a large-scale longitudinal study exploring biomarkers that indicate the progression of periodontal disease.

Biomarkers are the characteristics that are measured and evaluated as evidence of biological processes, pathogenic processes, pharmacological response or therapeutic intervention. Dr. Nathalia Garcia, periodontist at the SIU School of Dental Medicine, is the primary author for the SIUE research site. “The study will look for microbial and host-derived biomarkers to determine if an individual is likely to develop gum disease, or if existing periodontal disease is likely to worsen,” said Garcia. “Effects of periodontal treatment on the levels of biomarkers will also be investigated.”

Five hundred participants will be recruited through four of the centers, 60 of which will come from SIUE. For one year, participants will have closely monitored appointments every two months, where investigators will collect biological samples, saliva, plaque and blood. The periodontal disease condition in each patient will be evaluated and documented throughout the year, and then treated at the conclusion of the study.

“The significance of this study is that, for the first time, a large group of biomarkers considered important in the progression of periodontal disease will be examined longitudinally. This project investigates the use of biomarkers in explaining why people develop periodontal disease, what circumstances lead to the progression of periodontal disease and how treatments affect biomarkers” said Garcia. “This will represent advancement in understanding the disease and hopefully will open the possibility for more specific therapies of this condition”.

Periodontal disease is a chronic and often painless condition (in its early stage); as a result, there is usually a delay between detection and treatment. The progression of periodontitis is not continuous, it is episodic; periodontal disease can progress in a variety of different ways for diverse patients and different sites of the mouth. A better understanding of the pathogenesis of periodontal disease using biomarkers will enable applications for more individualized treatments and better therapeutic outcomes.

Ultimately, Garcia and her team of researchers hope that the results generated by this NIH project will give the dental community more tools to assess risk and diagnose periodontal disease, while opening up the possibilities to design highly specific treatments for the disease.

The Forsyth Institute in Boston, primary grant recipient, and the following institutions were selected by the NIH to assist with recruiting and data collection for this study:

  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • New York University, New York City
  • State University in New York, Buffalo

The following faculty and staff members from the School of Dental Medicine are participating in this research study:

  • Dr. Nathalia Garcia, periodontist, principal investigator
  • Dr. Debra Dixon, dentist, co-investigator
  • Dr. Jane Gillespie, microbiologist/immunologist, co-investigator Dr. Douglas Miley, periodontist, co-investigator
  • Diane Callier, dental hygienist
  • Mary Signorino, dental hygienist
  • Shuron Bell, dental hygienist
  • Donald Reed, molecular biologist
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