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Arginine research merits ADAF Dr. Bowen award

March 10, 2016

By David Burger

Kudos: Dr. Thomas Hart, right, recognizes Andres Alvarez, winner of the 2015 Dr. Ray Bowen Student Research Award Feb. 26 at The Drake Hotel in Chicago.
"Winning the ADA Foundation's Dr. Ray Bowen Student Research Award changed my life," said Andres Alvarez, a second-year student at the University of Florida College of Dentistry.

"Going into dental school, I never had done research before," said Mr. Alvarez, 25, a Miami native. But after being exposed to research projects by his mentor, Mr. Alvarez saw the opportunities present in dental research. "I like the idea that you're on the ground floor of the profession. There are a lot of opportunities for innovation."

Mr. Alvarez's passion led him to Chicago in late February. There, he presented a poster at the Academy of Operatory Dentistry's annual conference at The Drake Hotel. Surrounded and questioned by dentists from around the world, Mr. Alvarez spoke about his year-long research project concerning a new arginine-based bonding agent with long-lasting anti-caries activity. He drew praise from those attending.

"It's impressive," said Dr. Thomas Hart, director of the ADA Foundation Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center. "Ray Bowen would be thrilled with this research. He talks about this type of work every day."

This award honors Dr. Ray Bowen, inventor of resin composites and dentin adhesives and an internationally recognized authority on composite materials. Dr. Bowen is a former director of the ADA Foundation Paffenbarger Research Center — now called the ADA Foundation Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center — and is presently active as Distinguished Scientist at the VRC on the campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

The ADA Foundation and the Academy of Operative Dentistry collaborate to offer the Dr. Ray Bowen Student Research Award every two years. Mr. Alvarez is the 2015 winner of the award, with his research presented in 2016.  The award provides $6,000 to support the student's proposed research and up to $1,000 to cover the costs of their attendance at the Academy of Operative Dentistry's annual session to present a table clinic based on the research.

"It has been a great pleasure to mentor Andres for the past two years," said Mr. Alvarez's mentor, Dr. Marcelle Nascimento, an associate professor from the University of Florida College of Dentistry. "His first research project during the summer of 2014 was related to testing the potential of oral arginine metabolism for caries prevention.  His second and award-winning project was developed this past year as an extension of the first one."

Mr. Alvarez's research aims to start the development of a new restorative bonding agent containing the amino acid arginine for reducing the risk of secondary caries in composite restorations.

During his table clinic, Mr. Alvarez told attendees that arginine metabolism by oral bacteria generates ammonia, which can neutralize glycolytic acids and reduce the risk of secondary caries at the tooth-composite interface.

Mr. Alvarez said his study intended to develop and compare an adhesive system containing four different concentrations of arginine for sustainable release without affecting the mechanical properties.

With the bulk of his research completed, Mr. Alvarez said he is still open to the idea of continuing to do dental research.  He would like to become a dentist in private practice who is involved into research projects such as the ones from the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network. "It is a very exciting time for the advancement of dental research," he said.

The application period for the next Dr. Ray Bowen Student Research Award will open June 3 and the deadline will be in the late summer. The Foundation will post specific dates in the spring.

The award is open to dental students at all levels who wish to undertake novel research relevant to contemporary operative dentistry.

For more information on the ADA Foundation's awards and grants, visit ADAFoundation.org.