Ann Arbor, MI — March 9, 2016 — Two graduate residents in the periodontics program at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry won major awards during the Midwest Society of Periodontology’s Annual Meeting last month in Chicago.
Dr. Ann Decker, a second-year grad perio resident who is also in the school’s Oral Health Sciences PhD program, won first place for her investigation into why prostate cancer bone metastases cause cancer relapse.
Conducting her research in the laboratory of Dr. Russell Taichman, associate dean for research, Decker is building on Taichman’s investigations into mechanisms that regulate bone metastasis of prostate and other cancers within skeletal structures.
Many times metastatic prostate cancer cells compete with hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow. Often the prostate cancer cells become dormant, sometimes for years and men who are being treated for prostate cancer undergo surgery and chemotherapy and often believe they are cancer free. However, many patients later learn their cancer has returned, metastasized further and is now incurable.
Decker’s research focuses on what may prompt the dormant cancer cells to reactivate.
“My data suggests this may be due to the release of a stress signal mediator,” Decker says. “This is a significant discovery because it reveals that neuronal innervation may directly influence an important microenvironment within the bone marrow, the hematopoietic stem cell niche. That, in turn, may give us further insights into cancer biology and ultimately how patients are cared for.”
Dr. Alberto Monje, a third-year periodontics resident, received an honorable mention for his oral presentation that described the use of combining 3D printing technology and gene therapy to regenerate the structures of the periodontium – cementum, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone – which often are damaged due to periodontal disease.
“Forming replacement tissues that have both structural and functional integrity depends on correct cellular alignment and periodontal composition which is influenced by micro-scale environmental cues,” Monje says.
He concluded a three-dimensional scaffold printed in combination with gene therapy can be used to repair periodontal tissues. Ultimately, that approach may lead to interfacial tissue engineering.