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University of Buffalo Wins $4M for Study of Oral Microbiome, Periodontal Disease

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A research team at the University of Buffalo has received a $4 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to use genomics and bioinformatics approaches to study the oral microbiome and how it may be involved in periodontal disease in postmenopausal women.

The UB scientists think that the bacteria that comprise the oral microbiome may be involved in the prevalence, severity, and progression of periodontitis, UB said today. They plan to focus on the microbiome of the subgingival area under the gums and between the gums and the basal part of the crowns of the teeth.

The research group involves scientists at UB's Schools of Medicine and Biological Sciences, Dental Medicine, and Public Health and Health Professions, as well as partners at UB's New York State Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and the Genomic Medicine Network, which is co-led by UB and the New York Genome Center.

The project will harness existing data from the Buffalo OsteoPerio Study, which is an ancillary project to the Buffalo Women's Health Initiative, a study with a well-designed cohort that was conducted between 1997 and 2001, and had five-year follow-ups between 2002 and 2006.

"To our knowledge, there is no prospective epidemiologic study as large and rich with available data resources that can address the cutting-edge questions we propose here on the oral microbiome and its relationship to periodontitis in postmenopausal women," UB Professor Jean Wactawski-Wende, said in a statement.

This study will bring back the subjects from the initial project to investigate how their microbiome has changed over a 15-year period, said Wactawski-Wende, who is leading the project. "We expect our results to lay the foundation for the study of the association of the oral microbiome to the development of other chronic diseases of aging," she added.

The team will use frozen subgingival plaque samples collected during the initial study and through follow-ups, as well as data from standardized oral exams to characterize the effects of periodontal disease. They also will incorporate extensive personal data, such as smoking and dietary habits, and obesity, disease, and overall health status into their analyses.

Their approach will involve using next-generation sequencing to create a more complete and detailed characterization of the microbial composition and diversity of the oral cavity, Wactawski-Wende added.

Another investigator on the project, Professor Robert Genco of the UB School of Dental Medicine, said that these techniques will make it possible to better understand how complex subgingival biofilm and the host immune responses it causes are involved in periodontal disease.