Collecting Evidence for the Future of Dentistry in Canada
A new bank in Canada has begun accepting a very strange currency: plaque. That’s right! Canada’s first plaque bank collects the widely dismayed “terror of the dental world” from the gums, teeth, and tongue of dental patients across the country.

Researchers behind the establishment of the “plaque bank” believe that the bacterial content of plaque will allow them to study an entirely new frontier of medicine. By analyzing plaque samples collected from the fecund bacterial environment of the mouth, researchers hope to find new ways to identify, treat, and even predict disease.

Studying Bacterial Communities

While it’s not exactly a pleasant thought, the mouth contains a number of bacterial communities. These communities can be observed to provide researchers with useful insights into a patient’s health. This goes beyond the realm of just oral diseases, as this research may help to identify and treat more serious diseases, such as diabetes, as well.

According to Assistant Professor at U of T Dilani Senadheera, who is also the Co-Director of the newly established Oral Microblome and Metagenomics Research Lab (OMMR), “We know that the microblome, or the bacterial environment of the mouth, can be a great predictor of diseases. To a large extent the oral microblome is an untapped resource for medical research.”

Developing a ‘Gold Standard’

Once researchers have collected a plaque sample, they pinpoint what they call a “fingerprint” gene. This gene is unique to each bacteria type and it is interestingly present in all forms of known bacteria on the planet. According to Senadheera, this particular type of gene analysis is the “gold standard for bacterial identification.”

Preliminarily examining this gene gives researchers a point of reference when they’re attempting to identify the different types of bacteria present in a single sample. This reference point also allows researchers to further distinguish individual bacteria species, of which there may be hundreds present in a single sample the size of a pinhead.

By further comparing bacteria found in healthy plaque samples against the bacteria in samples known to have specific diseases, researchers hope to identify key “biomarkers” that relate to certain, specific states of health.

The Future of Plaque

While there are many components to the OMMR’s research, one of the more interesting facets involves developing “plaque transplantation” therapies. For patients undergoing radiation therapy for different forms of cancer, rapid tooth decay can be a common, undesirable side effect. Researchers theorize that transplanting select “healthy” plaque communities could effectively stabilize the bacterial content of the mouth and help to save the teeth of radiation patients without the costly use of chemicals or other invasive procedures.

While the initial research at OMMR will be focused on plaque, Dr. Howard Tenenbaum, OMMR Director, is quick to stress the lab’s plans for expanding their research efforts in the future, “Initially [the lab] is focused on plaque – which will be used to identify microbiological markers of disease. But as the program progresses, additional biomarkers for inflammation [such as arthritis], and even pain, will be assessed.”

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Posted by: DSR
Friday, May 1, 2015
Tag: Dental
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