BUFFALO, N.Y. — University at Buffalo researchers have
received an interdisciplinary bioinformatics grant of $3,986,404
from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of
the National Institutes of Health to conduct a prospective study of
the oral microbiome and periodontitis in postmenopausal women.
It is research that its investigators say is on the cutting edge
The study will investigate a critical gap in knowledge of the
composition and role of the oral microbiome, comprised of the
bacteria found in our mouths. It will consider, in particular, the
microbiome of the subgingival area beneath the gums and especially
between the gums and the basal part of the crowns of the teeth.
Researchers theorize that certain compositions of this diverse
microbiome will be associated with periodontal disease prevalence,
severity and progression over time.
The study will involve investigators from the UB School of
Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the UB School of Dental Medicine,
the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, UB’s
New York State Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life
Sciences and the new Genomic Medicine Network, which is co-led by
UB and the New York Genome Center.
The study’s principal investigator is Jean
Wactawski-Wende, PhD, professor, Department of Epidemiology and
Environmental Health, UB School of Public Health and Health
Professions, and director of the Women’s Health
Initiative’s Buffalo Center.
“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,” says Wactawski-Wende.
“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 says.
The study will build on existing data from the Buffalo
OsteoPerio Study, a study ancillary to the Buffalo Women’s
Health Initiative that involved a well-characterized cohort of
postmenopausal women from Western New York. The baseline study was
conducted from 1997 to 2001, with a five-year follow-up between
2002 and 2006.
“We will bring the subjects back about 15 years
post-baseline to look at how their microbiome has changed over
time,” explains Wactawski-Wende.
Researchers will use frozen subgingival plaque samples from that
study collected at baseline and post-baseline at year five; data
from standardized oral exams that will characterize the extent of
subjects’ periodontal disease; and extensive information on
personal factors (e.g., smoking, dietary intake, obesity, diabetes,
hormone use) and overall health status.
“This work is on the cutting edge of science,” notes
co-principal investigator Robert J. Genco, DDS, PhD, SUNY
Distinguished Professor, Department of Oral Biology, UB School of
Dental Medicine. “Periodontal disease is one of the most
common diseases in older adults,” says Genco. “It
involves altered host immune responses to subgingival insult by a
complex olymicrobial biofilm that is not completely understood. New
techniques to characterize this biofilm, made available very
recently, will permit us to conduct this research.”
These techniques involve Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) using
culture-independent techniques to identify 16S rRNA genes and allow
for a more complete and detailed characterization of the microbial
composition and diversity of the human oral cavity, Wactawski-Wende
In addition to their faculty roles, Wactawski-Wende serves as
vice provost for strategic initiatives and research advancement at
UB, and Genco directs the UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer
and Economic Outreach (STOR).
Study co-investigators in the UB School of Medicine and
Biomedical Sciences are Yijun Sun, PhD, assistant professor,
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and Michael Buck, PhD,
assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry, and director of
the UB Stem Cell Sequencing/Epigenomics Center (WNYSTEM).
Co-investigators from the UB School of Public Health and Health
Professions are Michael LaMonte, PhD, assistant professor, and Amy
Millen, PhD, associate professor, both in the Department of
Epidemiology and Environmental Health.