Research


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Within the Department of Oral Biology there are a wide variety of research interests among the faculty.  Research interests in the department range from molecular biology, immunobiology, cell biology, biochemistry, education, tobacco, and smoking cessation.  Listed below are descriptions of the various research activities.  For further information contact the Department of Oral Biology or click on the specific research activity which will take you to the faculty home page.

Research Interests

The maintenance of bone mass in adult life depends upon the coordinated activities of both the osteoblasts, which make new bone, and the osteoclasts, the cells responsible for bone degradation. In skeletal diseases such as osteoporosis, Paget’s disease and hypercalcemia of malignancy, unregulated bone resorption by osteoclasts results in low bone mass, skeletal fragility and increased risk of bone fracture. The metabolic bone diseases and periodontitis also result in alveolar bone loss, tooth mobility and ultimately, tooth loss.

Osteoclast adhesion and migration along the bone surface involves remodeling of its cytoskeleton and the assembly, organization and disassembly of specialized adhesion structures named podosomes. My laboratory is focused on identifying and characterizing key intracellular signaling proteins and protein complexes that are involved in regulating the attachment, migration and bone resorbing activity of osteoclasts. To this end, we are currently using a number of transgenic and knockout mice to investigate the role of specific tyrosine kinases, actin-regulatory proteins and GTP-binding/hydrolyzing proteins in regulating osteoclast function. Dr. Bruzzaniti home page.

Plasmid biology - plasmid replication, partitioning, conjugation; recombinant DNA technology and oral microbiology; Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans in periodontal disease: identification and characterization of A. actinomycetemcomitans virulence factors, interaction of A. actinomycetemcomitans with human neutrophils.  Dr. Galli home page.

Preventive - Tobacco and Nicotine Tobacco-related research (conducted since 1981) specifically dealing with the use of NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) products; clinical effects of NRT on oral tissues; physician/dentist interventions to help patients quit using tobacco products; tobacco education programs and symposiums for health care providers; efficacy and safety of Zyban (buproprion HCL sustained release tablets) and other therapeutic substances as aids to smoking cessation in treatment. Dr. Christen home page.

Oral Microbiology - Novel Protein with Properties that Inhibit Tooth Decay Host-parasite relationships with emphasis on infectious diseases, mucosal immunity and molecular biology of microbial pathogenesis.
Research tool for the measurement of mucosal antibodies for drug investigating and antibody response to vaccines; in vitro microbial model for studying caries formation; secretory IgA and serum IgA immunity in HIV-1. Dr. Gregory home page

Dental resin materials are composed of methacrylates that are linked through ester bonds. They are polymerized with visible light. Small molecules leach out of the materials and can come into contact with the tissues of the oral cavity. We found that triethylene glycol demethacrylate (TEGDMA) leaches out of the resin materials. Pulp and gingival fibroblasts respond to sub-lethal concentrations of TEGDMA by secreting a hydrolase enzyme into the media. This enzyme has the ability to hydrolyze the dental resin materials. We believe that this is one of the reasons that resin materials are more unstable than dental amalgam. We are currently looking at the signal transduction pathways through which the enzyme might be activated and secreted and investigating the identity of the enzyme. Dr. Gregson home page

Infection Control - Primarily development and validation of procedures, chemicals, and equipment designed to control the spread of infectious disease agents. Efforts concentrate on the development of special methodologies that can measure microbial killing that occurs when performing a particular infection control procedure. Various systems analyzed include disinfectants and liquid sterilants; new models of steam and dry heat sterilizers; new solutions for the chemical vapor sterilizer; infectious waste disposal systems; dental handpiece sterilization systems; surgical instrument washers/disinfectors; ultrasonic cleaning systems; spore-testing systems; vacuum line cleaners; and new antimicrobial mouth rinses and denture cleaners. Dr. Miller home page

Oral Biology - Potential antimutagenic effects of various nutrients; effects of tobacco and specific tobacco components upon various cell types, and nicotine analyses. Influence of nicotine, nicotine metabolites and components of tobacco and tobacco products upon various cell types, including growth, metabolism and cytokines of cells. Dr. Olson home page Dental/medical education and OSCEs (Objective Structured Clinical Examination), relationship centered dental/medical health care and clinician-patient communication and access to oral health care for people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer patients and Head Start children. Dr. Shrader home page

The expression of proteinases in the degenerative joint diseases including temporamandibular joint disorder, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis to seek the potential marker(s) for disease diagnosis and treatment.
The expression of proteinases in amphibian limb regeneration using regeneration capable and incapable animal models such as the frog Xenopus laevis, and the axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum.
The induction of the regenerative ability of adult stem cells, including pulp stem cells and gingival fibroblasts, in order to restore the abilities of these cells to regenerate the tooth, the gingival soft tissue and the periodontal bone. Dr. Song home page

Cell Biology - Research centers on the elucidation of the mechanism(s) by which cells degrade the extracellular matrix in healthy and diseased tissues. It is focused largely on a group of zinc-dependent endopeptidases known as the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Collectively, these enzymes are capable of cleaving most of the major components of the extracellular matrix and are believed to be some of the tools by which cells facilitate the destruction of the extracellular matrix. page

Craniofacial Biology - Research efforts are directed toward aspects of craniofacial growth and development related to craniofacial morphology, particularly as related to craniofacial malformations and their surgical correction. A second area of research focuses on the prenatal development of dermatoglyphic traits and their variation. Dr. Babler home page