Ann Arbor, MI — July 3, 2014 — Two U-M dental students won first- and second-place awards in a research table clinic competition during the Academy of General Dentistry’s recent annual meeting in Detroit. The winners, Andrei Taut and Riley Schaff, are both second-year dental students.
Taut, who received a first-place award of $1,000, presented the results of his preclinical study that looked at the effects of inhibiting the function of a protein produced in jaw bones, sclerostin. Naturally secreted in bone, sclerostin directs cells to stop forming new bone.
Using animal models, Taut looked at how both the quantity and quality of bone is affected when sclerostin is turned off and what that might mean for humans since patients can lose their teeth as a result of permanent bone loss from severe periodontal disease. “If we can locally inhibit the effects of sclerostin, we may be able to develop therapies to help patients improve bone formation in their jaws and minimize the effects of periodontal disease,” he said.
Schaff, who received $500 for his second-place finish, conducted a preclinical study that examined the effects of pre-existing, chronic gum disease on the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Using animal models, Schaff discovered that pre-existing periodontal disease seemed to advance the progression and intensity of arthritis.
“We’re a long way from determining how periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis are linked in humans,” Schaff said. “But this study opens the door to further exploring ways in which these diseases might be connected on a cellular or a molecular level. As further research begins to show a possible link in humans, we may, eventually, begin to treat these patients with targeted therapies and potentially prevent disease progression in at-risk patients.”
Taut and Schaff conducted their research in the lab of Dr. William Giannobile, chair of the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine.
The Academy of General Dentistry is the second largest dental association in the U.S. with a membership of more than 38,000 general dentists.