Dr. Banas entered the tenure tack as an assistant professor in 1994 at the Albany Medical College, Center for Immunology and Microbial Disease (Albany, NY) following a postdoc at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Professor Banas joined the University of Iowa College of Dentistry in 2006.
Dr. Banas's broad research interest is the understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms of bacteria. Much of his work has focused on the microbiology of dental caries. His lab has extensively studied how the glucan-binding proteins (GBPs) synthesized by Streptococcus mutans contribute to the development of the plaque biofilm and ultimately dental caries. Since glucan -- a polymer of glucose derived from the metabolism of sucrose -- is a primary virulence factor that propels the change in microbial ecology that leads to a cariogenic plaque, it has been proprosed that proteins that have the property of binding glucan play accessory roles in this process. It is now clear that the four GBPs share in structurally supporting the biofilm, each doing so in a unique manner. These studies also revealed that the relative coverage of bacteria at the substratum surface of the biofilm was correlated with the risk of caries development.
In addition to continuing the work on GBPs, Dr. Banas's lab is pursuing several other lines of investigation. One of these investigations has accumulated evidence that the relative sensitivities of clinical isolate of S. mutans to host anti-microbial peptides is greater when isolated from caries-free hosts than from subjects with a history of caries. These results suggest that colonization with particular strains of S. mutans may help shape an individual's overall caries risk. Another area of investigation is devoted to understanding how DNA methylation affects gene expression. In preliminary work, it was observed that mutation of a gene encoding a DNA adenine methylase resulted in altered expression at several loci, including genes involved in cariogenicity. Dr. Banas is also collaborating with several College of Dentistry faculty to investigate caries etiology that is independent of S. mutans. Finally, Dr. Banas is involved in a collaboration to search for anti-biofilm activity among extracts from plants used in traditional Chinese medicine. Agents capable of preventing biofilm formation, or degrading pre-formed biofilm, could have tremendous application in the prevention or treatment of plaque-related dental diseases.
Dr. Banas's lecture topics include the cariogenic mechanisms of Streptococcus mutans and antimicrobial means of plaque control.
Dr. Banas has served as an ad hoc member of numerous study sections, has completed three years of service as a member of the NIDCR Oral, Dental and Craniofacial Sciences study section, and is a member of the College of CSR Reviewers. He is on the Infection and Immunity Editorial Board and contributes ad hoc reviews for several scientific journals. Dr. Banas is a member of the American Society for Microbiology and the American and International Associations for Dental Research.