Stefan Ruhl receives Distinguished Scientist Award in Salivary Research

Stefan Ruhl stands in his lab with his arms crossed.

Release Date: March 2, 2020

“I feel humbled when I look at the list of individuals who have received this award before me. Many of them are role models to whom I looked up to and who have shaped my scientific aspirations. ”
Stefan Ruhl, professor of oral biology
University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Stefan Ruhl, DDS, PhD, professor of oral biology in the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, was named the recipient of the 2020 International Association for Dental Research (IADR) Distinguished Scientist Award in Salivary Research.

The award recognizes outstanding and innovative achievements that have contributed to the basic understanding of salivary gland structure, secretion and function, or salivary composition and function.

Ruhl will be honored during the opening ceremonies of the IADR General Session and Exhibition on March 18 in Washington, D.C.

“I feel humbled when I look at the list of individuals who have received this award before me. Many of them are role models to whom I looked up to and who have shaped my scientific aspirations,” says Ruhl, also associate chair of the UB Department of Oral Biology.

Ruhl is an internationally renowned expert on saliva, oral bacteria and the oral microbiome. His research attempts to unravel the roles that saliva and microorganisms play in health, including in adhesion to the teeth and surfaces of the mouth, defense against pathogens and colonization of the oral cavity.

A current area of focus for Ruhl is the development of tools to study glycans, a group of biomolecules more diverse than the genome that help bacteria attach to host surfaces, including those in the mouth. Collaborative work of his has also led to the identification of a starch-digesting enzyme called amylase in the saliva of dogs and various other mammals for the first time.

Ruhl has explored saliva to understand the factors that helped shape human evolution and, in particular, the evolution of the human mouth.

He has led or participated in recent studies that have analyzed salivary proteins to find genetic evidence that humans may have mated with a ghost species of archaic humans; that the introduction of starch into the human diet also altered our saliva; and that 2 million years of eating meat and cooked food has led humans to develop a saliva that is now starkly different from that of chimpanzees and gorillas, our closest genetic relatives.

Previous work had already led the IADR to name Ruhl the Salivary Researcher of the Year in 2014.

Ruhl has published nearly 50 journal articles, books and book chapters. He currently holds grants from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and National Cancer Institute, both within the National Institutes of Health.

He is a past president of the IADR Salivary Research Group and serves on the editorial boards of Clinical Oral Investigations and the Journal of Dental Research.

Ruhl holds a doctor of dental surgery degree and a doctoral degree in immunology from the Georg-August University of Göttingen. He was a professor of operative dentistry and periodontology at the University of Regensburg, Germany, before he moved to Buffalo to dedicate the remainder of his career to the study of oral science.

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