NIH Awards $2.3M Grant to ADA Science & Research Institute, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, to Study Oral Mucosa

CHICAGO, August 24, 2021— The American Dental Association Science & Research Institute (ADASRI), together with the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, will examine the mechanisms that maintain and disrupt the barrier function of oral tissues in the presence of periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, as well as peri-implantitis, which is the inflammation of gum tissues surrounding dental implants. 

ADASRI project leader Stella (Styliani) Alimperti, Ph.D., and Dana Graves, D.D.S., D.M.Sc., professor of periodontics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and ADA Foundation board member, will serve as co-principal investigators of a four-year, $2.3M grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research for their research project entitled “Regulation of Epithelial Barrier.”

Periodontal diseases are caused by bacteria in the mouth that can lead to inflammation, bone loss and eventually tooth loss. This disease is complex, and how the tissues change in response to chronic inflammation needs further exploration. This project seeks to fill the gap, specifically by focusing on oral mucosa, the mucous membrane that lines the oral cavity. 

Oral mucosa are protected by the outer epithelial barrier that separates the underlying tissues from the environment and provides the first line of defense against chemical, physical and microbial influences, including bacteria and toxins. Improving this barrier can provide added protection from microbial-based diseases, such as periodontal disease.
“Bacteria can break through this barrier to cause inflammation of the tissues that surround a tooth or implant, leading to bleeding and potentially periodontitis and peri-implantitis,” Dr. Alimperti said. “Ultimately, the proposed study will shed light on oral epithelial barrier function related to peri-implantitis and periodontal diseases and may inform new ways to prevent gum disease.”

Additionally, researchers will investigate the role of several factors that are involved in implant compatibility, including molecular targets and cellular attachment to titanium.
The multidisciplinary team working on the project also includes Eun-Jin Lee, Ph.D., a postdoc researcher with the ADASRI, as well as other researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 

“We are very excited for Dr. Alimperti and the recognition this award brings to highlight the importance of cellular mechanisms in periodontitis and peri-implantitis,” said Marcelo Araujo, D.D.S., Ph.D., CEO of the ADASRI and chief science officer of the ADA. “This groundbreaking work will lead the way for the development of improved interventions in the dental industry. This is another example of the ADASRI to improve the lives of patients through oral health research.”

*Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01DE031046. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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