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2017 Research Day highlights school's commitment to groundbreaking science

D4 student Vanessa Donastorg talks with judges Dr. Tae-Ju Oh and Dr. Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch.

Tugba Topal, a biomedical engineering PhD candidate, talks with judge Dr. Dan Chiego.

From left: Dr. Russell Taichman, associate dean for research; Joel Pluymert, regional manager for Dentsply Sirona; Ke’ale Louie, student recipient of the American Dental Association/Dentsply Award; and Dean Laurie McCauley.

From left:  Dean Laurie McCauley; John Copley, husband of the late Jan Berry; Honghao Zhang, recipient of the first Jan’s Prize; Dr. Yuji Mishina; and Dr. Russell Taichman.

From left: Faculty member and nominator Dr. Susan Taichman; Dr. Marita Inglehart, recipient of a Distinguished Faculty Research Mentoring Award; Dean Laurie McCauley; and Dr. Russell Taichman.

From left: D2 student and nominator Curtis Herzog; Dr. Jan Hu, recipient of a Distinguished Faculty Research Mentoring Award; Dr. Russell Taichman; and Dean Laurie McCauley.

Ann Arbor, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 -– A graduate student studying how zebrafish regenerate body tissues won a top award at the School of Dentistry’s 2017 Research Day, and the school presented two new awards for faculty mentoring and excellence in research.

The annual event showcased the research of 100 dental and dental hygiene students in a poster presentation session at the Michigan League. Exhibitors and sponsors from organizations and companies related to dentistry also attended.  Research awards are presented in several categories for dental and dental hygiene students from undergraduate to PhD and postdoctoral fellows.

Among the top awards this year:
   • Ke’ale Louie, a joint DDS/PhD student, received the American Dental Association/Dentsply Award and the American Association of Dental Research Travel Award for his research on zebrafish. Louie, a first-year dental student, conducts his research at the Kellogg Eye Center under the joint mentorship of Dr. Alon Kahana in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science and Dr. Yuji Mishina in the School of Dentistry’s Department of Biologic and Material Sciences.
   • Honghao Zhang, a researcher also mentored by Dr. Mishina, received the first-ever Janice E. Berry Prize for Excellence in Research. The family of Berry, a longtime U-M and dental school staff member who died in 2016, created the $1,000 award to recognize a full-time researcher who may be currently experiencing a financial hardship.  The applicant must have demonstrated excellence in research, teaching, mentoring, service and leadership. Zhang was cited for his organizational skills, research and publishing success, and committed mentoring of numerous students.
   • Drs. Marita Inglehart and Jan Hu each received a Distinguished Faculty Research Mentoring Award after being nominated by students and colleagues.  The new annual award recognizes faculty who impart their research knowledge and experience with students and scholars in areas of clinical, basic science and-or translational research.  Dr. Inglehart is a professor in the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine and an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology.  Dr. Hu is a professor in the Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences and is the director of the Oral Health Sciences PhD Program.

The study by Louie and his collaborators, “Epigenetic Regulation of Myocyte Reprogramming During Craniofacial Muscle Regeneration,” may lead to targeted therapy that could improve regenerative treatment for volumetric muscle loss injuries.  Zebrafish are an excellent model for investigating vertebrate embryogenesis and regeneration because adults can regenerate muscle, bone, retina, cardiac, and fin tissues. The ability of zebrafish to reprogram differentiated cells into proliferative progenitor cells may be a particularly important regenerative pathway, according to the study.

Louie will use the travel award to present a poster on the same work and ongoing research at the annual meeting of the American Association of Dental Research in San Francisco, Calif., in March.  “Going to a conference allows me to highlight great work resulting from a unique collaboration between the School of Dentistry and the Kellogg Eye Center,” Louie said. “I’m excited to gain exposure for the Kahana lab, the Oral Health Sciences Graduate Program and the University of Michigan at the national level.  It also allows me to represent and present exciting work from within the zebrafish research community, and to interact and connect with accomplished scientists.”

Research Day opened with a keynote speaker, Dr. Maura Gillison, professor of medicine, epidemiology, otolaryngology and the Jeg Coughlin chair of cancer research at Ohio State University.  She presented a summary of her research into the role of human papillomavirus, or HPV, in head and neck cancer.

This growing health problem in the U.S. is serious enough that some in the public health community have labeled it an epidemic.  Gillison said that earlier in her career patients who developed head and neck cancer were typically in their 70’s with a lifetime history of tobacco and alcohol use; now they are more likely in their 40’s and 50’s with little or no history of smoking and drinking, but they are HPV-positive.  HPV is contracted through sexual contact with infected partners, though many who have it exhibit no symptoms and are not aware they have it. Research shows that men with HPV are more likely to develop head and neck cancer than women who have the virus. 

The connection between HPV and oropharyngeal cancer means dentists have an important role since they are primary providers of oral health care, Gillison said. Improved HPV detection tests are being developed, such as analyzing a mouthwash sample used by a patient. Knowing which patients have types of HPV linked to increased cancer risk helps identify which patients need more regular scrutiny. Dentists can help identify early cancer symptoms in the oral cavity, often originating at the base of the tongue or on the tonsils.

At the day’s closing ceremony, Dean Laurie McCauley applauded students, faculty and staff for the wide variety of research topics and the high quality of their work. McCauley noted that the lasting legacy of doing great research was on display as she toured the poster presentations with Dr. Gloria Kerry, a local periodontist who is a 1956 graduate of the school.  Kerry contributed to some of the fundamental research in the field of periodontics during longitudinal studies conducted by legendary faculty member Dr. Sigurd Ramjford.  A dental school resident recognized Kerry’s name as they were introduced. “Oh my gosh, I’ve read your papers,” he told her.  All these years later, McCauley observed, “How cool was that?”

For a complete list of awards at the 2017 Research Day, see this Office of Research web page.

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The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu.

Contact:
School of Dentistry writer Lynn Monson at dentistry.communications@umich.edu, or (734) 615-1971.