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Mucosa, Immunology & Oral Cancer Research

The response of the lining of the mouth and associated skin to environmental factors, local and systemic disease, the aging process, and traumatic injury, is not well understood. Nevertheless, such responses have important implications for preventing or treating periodontal disease, oral cancer, and other soft tissue diseases. Investigating the chemical composition, structure, and permeability of this system of tissues will lead to a better understanding of the barrier function of these tissues as a defense against microorganisms and carcinogens. Studying the action of tobacco components and alcohol on the mouth lining will help better define the etiology of oral cancer and how tobacco use may contribute to periodontal disease. And understanding the interactions between the immune system and oral cancer will lead to better treatment strategies.

Primary researcher: Kim Brogden
Dr. Brogden’s current area of research focuses on the ability of peptides in saliva (defensins, histatins, etc.) to serve as upstream suppressors of cytokine signaling to recombinant hemagglutinin B (rHagB) and recombinant Fimbrillin (rFimA) from the periodontal pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis. Recently, human beta defensin 3 and histatin 5 were found to attenuate a pro-inflammatory cytokine response induced by rHagB in human myeloid dendritic cell culture supernatants and the Extracellular signal-Regulated Kinases (ERK 1/2) response induced by rHagB in human myeloid dendritic cell lysates. The mechanism may involve binding of HBD3 to rHagB and rFimA: HBD3 binds to immobilized rHagB and rFimA via surface plasmon spectroscopy and via ELISA and HBD3 inhibits binding of rHagB to cells via confocal microscopy and immunoelectron microscopy. Future research will determine the extent to which defensins can suppress early events in inflammation, an exciting concept that could be exploited to develop therapeutics to prevent or treat a variety of oral mucosal infections, particularly where inflammation plays a role in the pathogenesis of disease and its long-term sequelae.
Primary researcher: Christopher Squier
For over twenty-five years, Dr. Squier's research has focused on the structure and function of stratified squamous mucosae, with particular regard to the nature of the superficial permeability barrier structure and the role of topical carcinogens and micro-organisms in the pathogenesis of local and systemic disease. Specific areas of interest have been interactions between alcohol and tobacco components in the development of oral cancer and the mechanisms by which Staphylococcae and their toxins are involved in the vaginal pathogenesis of toxic shock syndrome. More recently, he has been concerned with the role of oral health professionals in assisting their patients with tobacco cessation. Dr. Squier has published more than 200 books, chapters, and peer-reviewed articles.
Primary researcher: Georgia Johnson
Effects of tobacco products on periodontal host response and the impact of smoking on periodontal treatment outcomes; the role of naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides in periodontal disease and clinical dental implant research.
Primary researcher: Philip Wertz
Biochemistry; structures, function and metabolism of lipids in epidermis and oral epithelium.