Dr. Panos N. Papapanou's Laboratory
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The first area of investigation, focused on the themes of understanding periodontitis pathobiology and the determinants of susceptibility, addresses a fundamental observation: while it is known that oral bacteria are the primary drivers of periodontal (gum) inflammation and tissue destruction (periodontitis), many individuals with dirty mouths are often resistant to disease while, conversely, people with relatively clean mouths can suffer from severe periodontitis. To better understand what constitutes a “susceptible” individual, the team takes advantage of high throughput technology that allows the study of gene expression patterns in gingival tissues. By examining which genes are “turned on” in states of health and various levels of disease, the investigators gain understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the different forms of periodontitis. Ultimately, the team hopes to develop a novel classification of periodontitis that will be based on elements of pathobiology rather than on clinical signs and symptoms.
The second area of investigation, focused on the role of periodontal infection/inflammation as a systemic health stressor, examines whether periodontal infection and the associated inflammation can contribute to disease outside the mouth. The team has published numerous articles on the role of periodontitis in atherosclerosis, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and diabetes mellitus. An ongoing project focuses on the potential role of periodontitis as a risk factor/marker of cognitive decline in elderly individuals.