Director, UB Microbiome Center
Distinguished Professor of Oral Biology, Periodontics, Microbiology
Robert Genco leads the UB Microbiome Center which is enhancing studies of the human microbiome—the community of organisms that share our body space—to better understand its role in health and disease.
A world-renowned scientist with demonstrated success in commercializing both his own discoveries and those of others, Genco's research focuses on the mechanisms of virulence of mucosal pathogens. Adherence is a critical first step in the pathogenesis of mucosal diseases, as it is important in interactions with mammalian cells, which can activate macrophages and play a role in invasion of epithelial cells.
The molecular basis of adherence and fimbrial and nonfimbrial-associated adhesins are investigated. Adhesin for binding of pathogenic bacteria to mucous-covered surfaces have been studied at the molecular level. Studies of fimbrial adhesins of P. gingivalis have shown that protein interactions with salivary components are critical. Investigation of binding domains of fimbrial adhesin-associated proteins, their synthesis, assembly, and expression of this organelle are among our current projects.
We are exploring the immunogenicity of adhesins as well, using synthetic peptides in order to evaluate their usefulness as vaccines. Studies of S. gordonii as a vector for these vaccines is proceeding through genetic engineering of strains and testing in animal and human studies.
We are studying the systemic factors which alter the risk for periodontal disease, one of the most common infections of humans. Diabetes mellitus, osteopenia, stress and inadequate coping and smoking are conditions which increase susceptibility to periodontal infections.
More recently, we have studied the effect of periodontal infections as they increase the risk for heart disease including myocardial infarction, and decrease glycemic control in diabetics. In vitro studies of molecular and cellular mechanisms, animal models and human epidemiologic studies, as well as randomized clinical trials are all underway to study the interdependence of periodontal infections and heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.