Research News 2021

2018 research news
Hongli Sun

Bone Regeneration: Making a Fantasy a Reality

May 14, 2021

In the Harry Potter universe, Harry Potter regrew a bone simply by drinking a magic potion. Researchers at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry are working to make this fantasy a reality—not with magic but with novel tissue engineering strategies and cutting-edge science.

Dr. Hongli Sun, associate professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research, is one of several faculty members at the college leading the charge to develop novel bone regeneration strategies.

Typically, when bones or joints are seriously damaged, such as in multiple or complex fractures or in bones that are seriously compromised by age, disease, infection, or injury, the most common treatment is a bone-graft using one’s own bone material. A less invasive and potentially more effective approach is to harness a body’s own bodily repair processes to quickly and efficiently repair and regenerate bone.

Dr. Sun’s team is researching more effective ways to use the body’s own internal repair processes by tailoring a specific bone regeneration strategy to the specific cause(s) of bone damage. There are two major areas where his team is making great strides.

In the first area, emerging research uses deferoxamine, a drug that treats iron poisoning, to activate the hypoxia-induced factor-1α, which in turn promotes angiogenesis and bone regeneration. The two biggest obstacles to this line of research has been safety concerns and complicating factors, such as chronic inflammation, which are common among older individuals.

Dr. Sun’s team is addressing both obstacles. Dr. Sun’s team uses a small molecule, phenamil, to reduce inflammation and promote endogenous bone regeneration. To address safety concerns, the research team has engineered a novel nanomaterial scaffold that mimics the bone collagen structure and delivers deferoxamine and phenamil locally and controllably.

“The drug themselves are not new and people have been using them, but we are developing a new method for controlled release of the drugs that can be delivered at a specific location,” Dr. Sun explained.

These two innovations could pave the way for treatments to rejuvenate and repair significant bone damage, even for older adults. Dr. Sun and his team were recently awarded a five-year National Institutes of Health grant totaling over $1.7 million to support this research project

In a second area, Dr. Sun and his team are developing a specific bone regeneration strategy tailored to the specific needs associated with periodontitis-induced bone and tooth loss. In particular, the strategy treats the bacteria that causes periodontitis while continuously and effectively directing the body’s own repair processes to the site of the damage.

Although Dr. Sun has only been at the College of Dentistry since 2018, he has had remarkable success in developing his own research and securing grant funding for his projects.

From developmental biologists, like Dr. Brad Amendt, to research design and biostatistical support from Dr. Xian Jin Xie, to mechanics support from the College of Engineering, to clinical expertise from oral surgeons and periodontists, Dr. Sun has found a wide-range of collaborators that ultimately makes his work better.

“For any major research like this, we really need a well-rounded team, with a lot of different experts from different areas,” Sun explained, “and I came to Iowa because I knew I would get strong support that from other researchers, support staff, and the administration,” he added.

With researchers like Dr. Sun and his team on the case, it’s only a matter of time before we are making the fantasy of regrowing bone tissue a reality.

Dr. Shankar Rengasamy Venugopalan

AAOF Awards Dr. Rengasamy Venugopalan $30K Grant

Apr 23, 2021

The American Association of Orthodontists Foundation awarded Dr. Shankar Rengasamy Venugopalan, associate professor in orthodontics, and Dr. Huojun Cao, assistant professor in Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research, a $30K grant for their project, “The Analyses and Validation of Super-enhancers in Craniofacial Microsomia Associated Genomic Region.” The project is aimed at understanding the genetic causes of craniofacial microsomia.

Craniofacial microsomia is a structural birth defect were parts of the face, including ears, jaws, muscles, etc., are smaller than they would ordinarily be. These defects result in an asymmetrical face, and they affect how a person hears, eats, breathes, and speaks. To correct for these defects, multiple surgeries from birth until adolescence are needed. These surgeries are a significant burden on the patient, family, and medical system. Identifying the genetic cause of these defects could allow researchers to develop interventions to prevent these structural birth defects.

To date, the only large-scale genome-wide-association study for these defects identified several statistically significant genes, but these genes explained only about 9% of the genetic variance in the study population. This observation suggests that many genomic regions associated with craniofacial microsomia are yet to be discovered.This project aims to identify other important genetic factors that will further explain this variance.

Most of this research, thus far, has focused on the coding regions of the genome, with little attention on non-coding regions. But non-coding parts of the genome, particularly super enhancers—a cluster of enhancers that play a critical role in determining how a cell develops and grows—can control and affect gene regulatory networks. Dr. Rengasamy Venugopalan and Dr. Cao will use sophisticated computational tools to determine which genes are regulated by the super enhancers and will test them in an in vitro model system to validate their findings.

Isabelle Denry

Dr. Isabelle Denry to Retire from the College of Dentistry

Apr 15, 2021

For the past decade, Iowa has had the honor and privilege of having Dr. Isabelle Denry, one of the world’s foremost experts in dental ceramics, on our faculty. After several years in a private dental practice in France and completing a master’s degree in dental biomaterials, Denry decided to begin an academic career. In 1987, she became an assistant professor in the Department of Biomaterials and Biophysics at the University of Paris School of Dentistry, and she went off to earn her PhD in Odontological Sciences from the University of Paris School of Chemistry in 1989. She came to the United States as a research associate in the operative dentistry department at UCLA in 1990, and later went on to establish her own career as an independent researcher at the Ohio State University beginning in 1991 and full professor in 2006. After 20 years at Ohio State, Denry brought her innovative research and expertise to Iowa as a professor in prosthodontics and as a researcher in the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research, where she has served since 2011.

Dr. Isabelle Denry receiving her IADR Distinguished Scientist AwardAfter a remarkable and fruitful 34-year academic career, Denry will be retiring from Iowa on May 3, 2021. Over her career, she has:

With almost 5,000 citations over her career, including one first-author publication with over 2,000 citations, Denry has become one of the world’s greatest authorities in the development, use, and understanding of the structure and clinical uses of ceramics in dentistry.

And her recent work has taken her well beyond a purely dental context with her invention of a novel and effective blood-clotting agent, for which Denry and the University of Iowa just filed an International patent application.

Denry attributes her success as a researcher to her exploratory and entrepreneurial methodology.

Isabelle Denry working in her labShe’s always looking for new angles and possibilities, potential applications of novel materials, as well as innovative experimental approaches.

“I like to think outside the box and I am excited to try high risk/high reward experiments. Often the results are inconclusive; but scientists need to explore new possibilities—I was trained to be rigorous but audacious at the University of Paris and that’s really what science is about,” Dr. Denry said.

Denry also lives out that approach with her students, according to Kan Wongkamhaeng, a PhD student in oral science. With Denry’s high risk/high reward experiments, “Experiments do not always go how we wanted,” he explained. “And Dr. Denry would encourage me by explaining that she expects that many experiments will not work, and she would say, ‘That is the meaning of word, ‘research.’”

Denry-Holloway-France.jpgDean David Johnsen expressed his high regard for Denry saying, “Isabelle Denry has been an inspiration as a scientist who impacts the world of dental materials, as a mentor who makes a difference in the lives and careers of many, and as a role model of integrity and dedication at the College of Dentistry.”

Associate Dean for Research Jin Xie sees these same qualities in Denry—excellence as a researcher, colleague, and mentor.

He added, “During this past year, I saw her wisdom, insight, and expertise on full display as she served on the college’s research proposal advisory panel to review grant proposals for the 2020 seed grant initiative. Her comments and advice were valuable and important, especially for our junior faculty members, and it has made a difference for our entire college.”

For the past decade, Denry has been an invaluable member of the College of Dentistry. As she moves back to France in the coming months, her impact here at Iowa will continue to be felt. The image on the right shows Dr. Denry and Dr. Julie Holloway after France won the World Cup in 2018.    

Personalizing Implant Therapy to Improve Outcomes

Apr 09, 2021

The present and future direction of health care is all about delivering unique and personalized health care. Being able to meet the exact needs of a patient, while considering their distinct attributes with a precise and measured treatment is revolutionizing the health care industry. Dentistry is no exception, and Dr. Christopher Barwacz’s research is focused on improving treatment outcomes for patients receiving oral implants so that a given dental implant and its prosthetic components are customized for a given patient, rather than trying to fit the patient to a formulaic therapeutic regimen.

Although the field of oral implantology started to take off in the mid-1980s, it wasn’t until this century that the field matured—as it moved beyond a focus of obtaining predictable and successful results pertaining to the bone growing around and supporting an implant to a focus on personalizing and optimizing implant therapy with the goal of expanding the pool of patients who could receive implant replacement therapy without affecting treatment outcomes. To achieve such ends, a focus of research efforts was needed to investigate factors in the transition zone between an implant body and its prosthetic crown that helped contribute to success.

Dr. Barwacz, associate professor in the Department of Family Dentistry, is a leader in personalizing and optimizing implantology, and his research has moved along three main directions to support these goals.

The first direction explores the outcomes of shorter implants (6 mm) versus a traditional implant (≥11 mm).

“Historically, some patients weren’t good candidates for implants without undergoing significant augmentation procedures because their anatomy made it difficult to place a traditional-length implant,” Barwacz explained. “But we found that shorter implants, when planned and restored properly, had a similar long-term success rate to traditional implants, which allows us to optimize the implant length to the anatomical needs of the patient, and treat them in a more minimally-invasive fashion, thereby allowing more patients to potentially receive care.”

In the second, Barwacz and his team investigated the biocompatibility and longer-term prosthetic outcomes of biomaterials used in the fabrication of patient-specific, digitally-designed and manufactured custom abutments, which anchor the prosthetic tooth of the implant to the underlying implant body. “Just because a prosthetic component is still ‘in function’ does not necessarily mean it is ‘successful’, when taking into account factors such as inflammation, discoloration, tissue support, and patient-reported outcomes,” Barwacz said. “The nature of how the prosthetic connection between an implant and its corresponding abutment is designed, as well as the morphology of the abutment as it emerges through the mucosa can potentially have a significant influence on biological stability of the peri-implant tissues, making this an exciting area of research.”

The third direction harnesses the power of digital dentistry to optimize implant therapy. With a digital rendering of the patient’s teeth, mucosa, and supporting bone, the clinician can not only plan the surgery virtually, but can also design and manufacture the custom patient-specific prosthetic components a priori before the actual surgery, resulting in the capability to either immediately restore the missing tooth, or to guide healing post-surgery in a customized fashion. This leads to less morbidity, a more predictable surgery, and the potential to expedite treatment that is patient-centered with a unique treatment solution.

In each of these projects, Barwacz’s approach is multidisciplinary and involves close collaboration with colleagues as well as industry partners.

“Oral implantology is deeply multidisciplinary—to optimize outcomes, you need to collaborate closely with quality-oriented specialists in many different areas to ensure that the final restorative outcome meets the needs of the patient optimally,” Barwacz said.

Through it all, Barwacz’s approach is to start with the end goal in mind and work backwards starting with the patient’s desired endpoint and the specifics of the implant site’s biology to customize care. Incorporating multicenter and multidisciplinary clinical research collaborations to help establish evidence-based protocols that expand and improve outcomes for patients in the future brings Dr. Barwacz the most professional satisfaction.

Hannah Klaassen

How can patients have a satisfying experience at the dentist?

Mar 05, 2021

Although dentists often prioritize technical skill, patients generally aren’t able to evaluate differences in skill and they tend to care much more about how a dentist makes them feel. This central insight was one of fourth-year dental student Hannah Klaassen’s findings from her student research project, which she began four years ago and published in 2020 in the Journal of Dental Education.

Klaassen began the project during her first year of dental school as a part of the Dental Student Research Program, which provides opportunities for students to learn about and conduct cutting-edge research in the oral sciences.  

The College of Dentistry had been consistently collecting open-ended patient feedback after visits, and Klaassen used these responses as the basis for her study.  

“Taking patient feedback in their own words is helpful for identifying what patients notice and what aspects of patient care are positive and what isn’t,” Klaassen said.

After reading through the comments, Klaassen developed a coding system that allowed her to group and classify similar kinds of responses.

In particular, Klaassen noted that patients are particularly interested in (1) the emotional care they felt at an appointment, (2) the personal connections they made with staff, (3) the clear communication of expectations, and (4) clarity of communication between provider and patient and across the various departments and front desk teams at the College of Dentistry.

“Communication is what makes or breaks the patient experience, and all other central areas of concern were intertwined and related to that. Patients care less about technical skills and more about how we make them feel,” Klaassen explained.

In October 2019, Hannah Klaassen, who was a third-year dental student then, presented this research project at a Noon Presentation offered to the entire college.

Dr. Mike Kanellis, associate dean of clinics at the College of Dentistry, said of the presentation, “It is very interesting and timely.”

The study was published in the Journal of Dental Education in September 2020.

Klaassen’s experience as a student researcher has been formative for her. She initially started conducting research because she was interested in specializing after dental school, and she didn’t realize how much of an impact it would have on her.

“This research has given me an outsider and patient perspective on dentistry that I wouldn’t have known, and that’s invaluable,” Klaassen said. She added, “I hope to continue incorporating that into my own practice going forward and analyzing patient feedback in private practices. I think there is a lot we can learn from our patients.”

More broadly, the focus on research at Iowa has made a big difference for Klaassen too. Klaassen “100%” recommends that students get involved in the Student Research Program.

Speaking of her experience as an author going through an extensive review process for publication, Klaassen said, “I’m much more critical now, and I don’t just accept things at face value. The curriculum at Iowa on critical thinking and research is good, but my research experience in the Student Research Program complements it very well.”

 “You don’t understand how much it will impact you,” she added.

And one of the biggest impacts for Klaassen has been having Dr. Marchini as a mentor.

Speaking of Dr. Marchini, Klaassen said, “There are a hundred different ways that he helped me. He gave me the skills for conducting research and publishing it, but he also gives me great advice about patients and applying research to particular cases, especially during third-year rotations and treatment planning.”

Not content to rest on her laurels, Klaassen is working on another research project examining how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected dental student stress levels.

Xi Chen

NIH Awards Dr. Xi Chen New $425K Exploratory Research Grant

Feb 26, 2021

Millions of people receive palliative care each year in the United States. Many of these individuals can live several years while receiving palliative care.  Although oral health conditions, including dry mouth, infections, and oral pain among others, are extremely prevalent and can significantly affect their quality of life, the great majority of these individuals receive no oral health care prior to death.

Addressing these oral diseases can help maintain dignity and improve quality of life for older adults receiving palliative care. It can also reduce aspiration pneumonia, life-threatening septicemia and other systemic complications. Additionally, preventive care and early treatment are much more cost-effective than reacting to complications resulting from these oral health conditions.

Thus, Dr. Xi Chen and his team of researchers are working to change the paradigm of oral health care for these older adults. Oral health care has not, thus far, been integrated into daily palliative care practices, and physicians often treat oral health as a less important issue for this population, which in turn results in patients and their caregivers not appropriately valuing oral health care.

To begin changing the way that dentists and physicians think about oral health care for this population, the National Institutes of Health awarded Dr. Xi Chen and his research team a $425,000 R21 award.

As a part of the ongoing effort to advance palliative dental education and patient care at University of Iowa, this research builds on Dr. Chen’s early study with palliative care patients and their caregivers to identify barriers and solutions to both personal and professional high-quality oral-health care.

This particular research project will identify patients at the University of Iowa Palliative Care clinic, and conduct oral examinations and perform qualitative interviews with the patients and their caregivers to determine the patient’s oral health care needs, treatment goals, and care preferences. This information will be helpful for developing an intervention designed to increase oral health awareness among palliative care team and increase dental referrals for their patients. The research team will also evaluate the feasibility of integrating a proposed intervention into daily personal palliative care practices over a six-month period.

In addition to this intervention, a palliative dental practice building in the University of Iowa Palliative Care clinic will also be developed to provide on-site assessment and consults for palliative care patients requiring dental referrals.

Dr. Chen’s team including co-investigators Dr. Steven Levy, Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry, Dr. Timothy Thomsen, Department of Internal, Stephanie Gilbertson-White, PhD, APRN-BC and associate professor in the Department of Nursing, and Mary Ellen Macdonald, PhD, at the McGill University Faculty of Dentistry. 

Dr. Xian Jin Xie

Dr. Xian Jin Xie Appointed as New Centenntial Research Professor

Feb 25, 2021

Professor Xian Jin Xie was announced as the next Centennial Research Professor. This professorship recognizes Dr. Xie’s international reputation in research, the impact of his current research for its own sake and for the advancement of the college’s strategic mission in research. Dr. Xie is currently Associate Dean for Research and Director of the Division of Biostatistics and Computational Biology for the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. He also holds a joint appointment in the University of Iowa College of Public Health, and has collaborated with over 100 clinical, translational, and basic science principal investigators, leading the quantitative biomedical research effort on 52 peer-reviewed grants and 32 clinical trials including two NIH Cancer Center Support Grants, SPORE grants (P50) in lung and renal cancer, various single-PI NIH grants, as well as grants from NASA, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the American Cancer Society, and the US Department of Defense. These awards have provided over $90 million of research funding, and the resulting collaborations have led to 138 articles published in peer-reviewed journals with more than 7000 citations to date.

Dean David Johnsen said of Dr. Xie, "While the numbers are impressive, even more impressive is what a team player Professor Xie is!  He has collaborated with faculty from several colleges on campus as well as graduate and predoctoral students." 

Since Professor Xie assumed the role of associate dean, the college has continued improving its research trajectory with record levels of NIH funding and applications, and securing P3 funds to support an NIH P50 application on oral cancer.  Dr. Xie also initiated a seed grant program with the goal fund innovative projects from early-career investigators or established investigators who are developing a new line of research. The goal of these grants is to encourage research and generate data that will enable the awardees to be competitive for peer-reviewed national funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health.

Regarding this professorship, Dr. Xian said, "It is a great honor for me to be nominated for the College of Dentistry’s Centennial Professorship."

He added, "My vision for this professorship is to be a facilitator of others’ scholarship efforts, a discussion leader, and a champion for collaborative research success through serving, collaborating, and empowering others to achieve excellence to make the College of Dentistry a global leader in dental research!"   

Dr. Xie will continue the legacy of excellence exemplified by those who have held this professorship.  

Dr. Eric Van Otterloo

The Genetics of Bone Formation

Feb 19, 2021

As an expert in the genetics of embryonic development, Dr. Eric Van Otterloo has opened a new dimension for understanding craniofacial development, genetics, and bone formation.

Van Otterloo’s most recent line of research began when he identified, in the mouse genome, a mutation in the gene Memo1. The mutation, which removed the Memo1 gene, affected craniofacial bone development. Up until that point, Memo1 was primarily associated with breast cancer. In this context, Memo1 was responsible for cell migration, and thus breast cancer metastasis, but Van Otterloo’s discovery opened a new area of inquiry for this gene.

During embryonic development, the cartilage and bone in the head and the face develops out of a particular kind of cells called the neural crest. Along with the cranial bones and cartilage, neural crest cells contribute to several tissues important for life. Van Otterloo’s discovery, using mice with mutations to the gene Memo1, revealed the MEMO1 protein has a unique role in regulating neural crest derived craniofacial bone.

He and his team began investigating the precise mechanism behind this developmental process. First, they found that deleting Memo1 from the neural crest cells alone resulted in some of the same defects they had observed when Memo1 was removed from the entire mouse embryo. This finding suggested that Memo1 played a role directly within the neural crest cells to regulate craniofacial bone mineralization, rather than having an indirect impact on these cells.

Like the neural crest, the ectoderm also contributes to ameloblasts, the cells that deposit enamel on the outer surface of the teeth. Would MEMO1 also play a role in the mineralization process of these cells? To address this question, the Van Otterloo lab deleted Memo1 specifically from the ameloblasts. They found that deleting Memo1 from these cells resulted in severely compromised tooth enamel, again, suggesting Memo1 was somehow involved in mineralization of another tissue.

These experimental processes have helped Van Otterloo and his team investigate the precise mechanism by which Memo1 is regulating mineralization of distinct tissue types during craniofacial development. Current work in the Van Otterloo lab includes trying to determine exactly how Memo1 is controlling both of these mineralization events, and whether there are any shared feature in these mechanisms.

“Memo1 is still a little bit elusive. In breast cancer, it signals and governs cell migration, and for bone development, it regulates bone mineralization,” Van Otterloo said.

“Being able to understand the mechanism by which Memo1 operates could allow us to enhance bone formation or block bone formation to address developmental defects,” he added.

Van Otterloo is continuing this work with a recent, and he was recently awarded a three-year $700K grant for a project investigation the interactions between Memo1 and Runx2.

Runx2 is a transcription factor for activating genes and a master regulator for bone development. In this research project, Van Otterloo is exploring the precise relationship between Memo1 and Runx2.

“We know that Runx2 is crucial for bone development, but we don’t know whether or how it is related to Memo1,” Van Otterloo explained. “We will determine how central Runx2 is to the expression of Memo1 in gene regulatory networks in bone and enamel development,” Van Otterloo added.

Building on Memo1’s role in communicating and directing other cells, it may be the case that Memo1 plays a coordinating role setting up the cytoskeletal system, which plays an important role in the formation of bone and teeth.

This original research fits well at Iowa.

“Iowa has extensive research on cranial facial anomalies and bone regeneration harnessing genetic research,” Van Otterloo said.

In particular, Van Otterloo said that Memo1 could be a good candidate for the team of researchers at Iowa looking into specific therapeutics regarding bone regeneration, and Memo1 could be used to improve specific bone regeneration strategies. Likewise, researchers at Iowa who specialize in orofacial clefting and human genetics could explore the role of Memo1 in various patient cohorts with orofacial clefting.

These studies into the genetics of embryonic bone formation are not only expanding scientific knowledge in the area, but they are also laying the basic science groundwork necessary to move from the bench to the dental chair.

Liu Hong

Dr. Liu Hong Awarded $125K Supplemental Grant

Feb 12, 2021

Dr. Liu Hong, associate professor in the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research and the Department of Prosthodontics, was awarded a supplemental $125K subcontract from the National Institutes of Health via the company NaturemiRI. The goal of the project is to help develop a synthetic bone-graft substitute that promotes high-quality bone growth in alveolar ridge of dental patients, thereby offering a new tool in the treatment of craniofacial defects and tooth extractions performed in anticipation of dental implantation

Synthetic bone-graft substitutes are promising alternatives to current standard treatments for oral and craniofacial bone defects. MicroRNAs (miRs) are small, non-coding RNAs that have emerged as critical transcriptional regulators in stem cell differentiation and regeneration. Previous research findings demonstrate that significant potential exists to develop novel therapeutics for bone regeneration of craniofacial and periodontal bone defects by targeting miRs, and miR-200a specifically.

The NaturemiRI, LLC R&D team has developed the Plasmid-based microRNA inhibitor system (PMIS), a non-toxic, nucleic acid-based method of microRNA inhibition. This particular research project is part of an overall series of projects intended to validate and commercialize a PMIS-infused collagen sponge for use in clinical dentistry. Specifically, Dr. Hong’s team expects to show that a PMIS construct inhibiting miR-200a (PMIS-miR-200a) promotes high-quality bone growth in the alveolar ridge of dental patients, thereby offering a new tool in the treatment of craniofacial defects and tooth extractions performed in anticipation of dental implantation.

This project aims to optimize the in vivo osteoinductive capacity and alveolar bone regeneration of PMIS-miR-200a adsorbed in collagen sponges and determine its toxicity risk using an animal model.

Iowa Utility Company

College of Dentistry Awarded $600K+ in P3 Funds to Begin Developing a New Oral Cancer Center of Excellence

Feb 05, 2021

On Thursday, the University of Iowa announced that the first $7.5 million of the investment revenue generated from the public-private partnership (P3) for its utility system would include a $600K+ award for the College of Dentistry. With this support, an interdisciplinary team with over 40-people, including Iowa faculty from the Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Engineering, will develop the preliminary data and program structure to apply and be competitive for an $11 million grant from the NCI/NIDCR to establish a P50 Specialized Program of Research Excellence in oral cancer. This specialized research program in oral cancer will be the first of its kind in the nation.

Each year, approximately 53,000 people are diagnosed with some form of oral cancer and almost 10,000 die. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of oral cancer significantly enhance survival rates and reduce morbidity.

These P3 funds will significantly improve the chances that this interdisciplinary team will be able to secure P50 funds for each of the proposed research projects, and these projects would in turn help fill gaps in knowledge and in clinical translation necessary to substantially improve early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of oral cancer.

More specifically, the P3 funds will enable the team to develop the infrastructure and administrative units for supporting each of the research projects, and it will allow the project teams to generate preliminary data.  

In their award letter, Provost Kevin Kregel and Vice President of Research Martin Scholtz said of the project, "Establishing the nation’s first NCI/NIDCR P50 in Oral Cancer will bring national and international distinction to the University of Iowa. We look forward to seeing the progress towards establishing the support activities necessary to be competitive in the P50 grant submission."

The six projects are as follows:

Project 1: The Oral Microbiome in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC)

Co-PIs: Jeffrey Banas, PhD; David Drake, PhD; Sukirth Ganesan, BDS, PhD; Co-Is: Emily Lanzel, DDS; John Hellstein, DDS; Xian Jin Xie, PhD; Eric Taylor, PhD; Liu Hong, MD, PhD; Consultant: Kim Brogden, PhD

Project 2: Dissecting the PRMT5 regulatory pathway in oral epithelium differentiation

Co-PIs: Robert Cornell, PhD; Eric Van Otterloo, PhD; Ronald Weigel, MD, PhD; Co-Is: John Hellstein, DDS; Xian Jin Xie, PhD

Project 3: Tissue-Engineered Approaches for Oral Cancer Reconstructive Surgery

Co-PIs: Liu Hong, MD, PhD; Hongli Sun, PhD; Co-Is: Nitin Pagedar, MD; Brad Amendt, PhD; Marisa Buchakjian, MD, PhD; Xuan Song, PhD

Project 4: In situ Immunization with nanoparticles for treating oral squamous cell carcinoma

Co-PIs: Ali Salem, PhD; George Weiner, MD; Co-Is: Douglas Laux, MD; Andrean Simons-Burnett, PhD; Kyungsup Shin, DMD, PhD; Kim Brogden, PhD; Xian Jin Xie, PhD

Project 5: Discovering Genetic Susceptibility to Oral Cancer

Co-PIs: Xian Jin Xie, PhD; Erliang Zeng, PhD; Co-Is: Robert Cornell, PhD; Azeez Butali, DDS, PhD; Ronald Weigel, MD, PhD; Benjamin Darbro, MD, PhD

Project 6: NEK2 in Oral Cancer Biology and Therapy

Co-PIs: Frank Zhan, MD, DDS, PhD; Marisa Buchakjian, MD, PhD; Emily Lanzel, DDS; Co-Is: Carryn Anderson, MD; Veeratrishul Allareddy, BDS

James Wefel

College of Dentistry Announces Inaugural Wefel Research Awards

Jan 22, 2021

Dr. James S. Wefel was a deeply-valued faculty member of the College of Dentistry, who wore many hats in his 40 years of service (1972-2012). He was affiliated with the Department of Pediatric Dentistry and the Dows Institute for Dental Research (now the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research). He was a well-known professor, researcher, published author, distinguished international speaker, mentor, and innovator. Above all, he was a devoted friend, and he genuinely cared for the College of Dentistry and the people whose lives he touched.

The research award honors the contributions of Dr. Wefel to the College of Dentistry in the fields of Cariology and Dental Sciences. It is intended to encourage and assist promising students in their research endeavors.

The award committee: Dr. Karin Weber-Gasparoni, Dr. Xian Jin Xie, Dr. Jeffrey Banas, Dr. Steven Levy, Dr. Teresa Marshall, and Trudi Westfall are proud to announce the Inaugural James S. Wefel Dental Research Award 2020 recipients:

Chukwuebuka Ogwo (Mentor: Dr. Steven Levy; Department of Preventative and Community Dentistry) Predicting the Risk and Trajectory of Dental Caries Using Machine Learning Algorithm

Olajide Obe (Mentor: Dr. Cristina Vidal; Department of Operative Dentistry) Interaction of Odontoblasts with Products from Bacteria at Different Stages of Lesion Progression Modulate the Protein Expression and Activity of Cathepsins

Yun Jung Kim (Mentor: Dr. Justine Kolker; Department of Operative Dentistry) Evaluation of the effect of fluoride topical agents on the prevention of demineralization adjacent to resin modified glass ionomer restorations in vitro

Congratulations to all students and mentors for receiving such a prestigious award! Their names will be displayed on a new plaque at the entrance of the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research and we wish them success in their research.

Be advised, the application cycle for the 2021 award begins soon! Applications are due May 15, 2021.  Please contact Mrs. Trudi Westfall in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry for more information.

Dr. Aline Petrin

Dr. Aline Petrin Receives Highest Research Award in Orthodontics

Jan 22, 2021

The American Association of Orthodontics awarded Dr. Aline Petrin, associate research scientist in the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research, the 2021 Milo Hellman Research Award. This award will be presented during the virtual AAO Excellence in Orthodontics Awards Luncheon at Annual Session.

Dr. Thomas Southard, DEO in the Department of Orthodontics, expressed his congratulations and said of Dr. Petrin receiving the award, “This is the top orthodontic research prize in the world!”

Dr. Petrin was chosen for this prestigious award based on her research project, "Epigenome-wide analysis of DNA methylation in monozygotic twins discordant for orofacial clefts." This project is part of her 5-year career-development K01 NIH grant and draws on a unique and powerful approach to genetic research that uses discordant twins to study key epigenetics factors, which play a causal role in orofacial clefts

"It is an honor to be the recipient of the Milo Hellman Award. This achievement would not have been possible without the support that I receive. I extend my sincere thanks to my mentors, Dr. Moreno, Dr. Murray and Dr. Marazita, to the Department of Orthodontics, to our Division of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, and the College of Dentistry leadership."