News 2021

AADR

Iowa Makes An Impact at the IADR/AADR Annual Meeting

Jul 30, 2021

The Annual Meeting for the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) and the American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research (AADOCR) was held virtually this past week, July 21-24. Iowa had 42 presentations from faculty and students, and since each presentation was conducted virtually, the presentations can be still viewed if you registered for the conference.

  • The opening ceremony for the meeting was kicked off by IADR president, Pamela Den Besten ('80 DDS).
  • David Drake, professor in the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research, became the treasurer for the IADR.
  • Two Iowa researchers, Susana Calderon and Cristina Vidal, participated in the inaugural class (2020-2021) of the AADOCR MIND the Future program. An overview of the program with special attention to David Drake's role in the program is highlighted on the College of Dentistry website.
  • Aline Petrin, assistant professor in the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research, was announced a member of the 2021-2022 class of the AADOCR MIND the Future program.
  • 15 dental students earned AADR Bloc Travel grants. The recipients were Chinyere Adeleka, Jonathan Brennan, Teagan Byrnes, Bethany Doolittle, Jennifer Greif, Sang Han, Madison Kasparek, Mary Li, Jamie Liu, Sheng Hao Lu, Cyrus Mansouri, Katherine Moore, Shannon Osland, Benjamin Phan, and Sydney Woods.
  • Dental Student Megha Puranam received a Student Research Day Award based on her work at the Iowa Section of the AADR Annual Meeting.
  • Waheed Awotoye, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research, won second prize in the 2021 IADR Hatton Award in the senior category for his research presentation. 
  • Dental student Mary Li won a Student Research Fellowship in support of her project. Azeez Butali, associate professor in the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research is Li's mentor.

 Associate Dean for Research Jin Xian said that it was a "very impressive Iowa IADR representation" as he expressed congratulations to the students and mentors for the award winners.

University of Iowa Public Policy Center

College of Dentistry Faculty Receive Grant to Research Dental Wellness Plan

 

Jul 30, 2021

An interdisciplinary team of investigators from the University of Iowa Public Policy Center’s (PPC) Health Policy Research Program has received a five-year extension of their project evaluating the Iowa Wellness Plan, Iowa’s version of the Medicaid expansion. The new evaluation plan took 18 months to develop and supports a waiver application received by the Iowa Department of Human Services from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that allows the state Medicaid Program to provide an innovative approach to providing medical and dental care to many adults in the Iowa Medicaid Program. The PPC research will focus on seven different aspects of the Iowa Wellness Plan including the Healthy Behaviors Incentive Program, the Dental Wellness Plan and the Waiver of Retroactive Eligibility. The rigorous, mixed-method evaluation plan will test over 50 hypotheses, and 170 research questions. The evaluation team includes faculty and staff investigators from the PPC, the College of Public Health, the College of Dentistry, the Department of Economics in the College of Business, the School of Planning and Public Affairs and the University of North Carolina College of Medicine. College of Dentistry faculty who are leading portions of this evaluation are Drs. Susan McKernan, Julie Reynolds and Pete Damiano. The research project runs through June 30, 2026.

Fabricio Teixeira

Dr. Fabricio Teixeira Receives Prominent Industry Grant

Jul 22, 2021

The medical equipment manufacturer SONENDO of California awarded Dr. Fabricio Teixeira, professor and head of the Department of Endodontics, and his team a $189K grant and specialized equipment and training worth almost $350K, bringing the total value of the award to $539K for their 1-year clinical project, “Effectiveness of GentleWave on the Healing of Apical Periodontitis: a prospective cohort study.”

Apical periodontitis is caused by a polymicrobial infection of the root canal system. Microorganisms present in the necrotic pulp can lead to periradicular diseases (periapical lesion). In endodontic treatment of these circumstances, the primary purpose is to reduce the number of microbial cells, tissue, biofilms, and infected dentine. In the majority of cases, apical periodontitis will heal if the root canal system is adequately disinfected.

Currently, various irrigation and mechanical instrumentation techniques have been used. A combination of several procedures can predictably eliminate these microorganisms. Sonendo has developed an alternative treatment using sound waves and advanced fluid dynamics, called the Gentlewave System. The concept is based on minimally invasive endodontics; it was designed to reduce patient inconvenience, operatory turnover, and risk of viral exposure. It has the potential to eliminate these microorganisms and etiological factors, preserving the tooth structure. Dr. Teixeira and his team will evaluate whether this new invention can clinically reduce operating time, document the incidence of post-operatory pain, and, more importantly, confirm if it enhances root canal disinfection, thereby increasing the healing rate for apical periodontitis. 

Dr. Teixeira’s team includes statisticians Dr. Xian Jin Xie and Carissa Comnick, Sara Miller as clinic coordinator, and endodontics residents and faculty who will use the new technology.

Dr. Teixeira said, “I am fortunate to have worked with such wonderful people on this project, notably Sara Miller, Ann Lawler, Sharon Seydel and Carissa Comnick. We are very enthusiastic about this translational research opportunity.”

The results will be evaluated by board-certified endodontic faculty using limited Cone Beam Computed Tomography examinations (CBCT). 

Leo Marchini

Dr. Leonardo Marchini Receives Grant to Support Final Development of Ageism Evaluation Tool

Jul 09, 2021

The Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation awarded Dr. Leonardo Marchini a grant to support the final step in the development of a tool to measure the degree of ageism among dental students.

The Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation and the University of Iowa College of Dentistry have a long history of joint initiatives aimed at improving the oral health of older Iowans, and those initiatives have helped make Iowa a leader in the field. A crucial component to caring well for older adults is to address implicit or explicit ageism among dentists and oral health care professionals.

In dentistry, this can relate to an assumption that older adults are less likely to comply with dental advice, or their treatment is too time consuming. These kinds of attitudes have an impact on oral health care for older adults, which then has an impact on overall health and quality of life. For example, if an older person’s oral health deteriorates, it often affects their ability to chew and eat enough high-quality foods to meet their dietary needs.  

This diagnostic tool will allow dental educators to develop and evaluate specific strategies for addressing ageism among dental students thereby improving the oral health of older adults.

This tool has been in development for several years, and it has been translated and validated cross-culturally (for application in dental schools in Brazil, Greece, and Romania among other countries) as part of the process.

Cristina Vidal

NIH Awards Dr. Cristina Vidal $700K+ Grant

Jul 02, 2021

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) awarded Dr. Cristina Vidal, assistant professor in the Department of Operative Dentistry, a 5-year grant totaling over $700K for her research project studying the relationship between caries and the oral microbiome.

Caries is the most common chronic disease for children and adolescents and is also common among adults. This disease is caused by numerous factors, commonly attributed to diet and acid content in the mouth and their effects on the oral microbiome. These imbalances demineralize dental hard tissues, which allows for a carious lesion in the enamel of a tooth. With further demineralization, a cavity will develop.

Dr. Vidal’s research group has shown that the common narrative about how diet and acid content cause caries is more complex than originally thought. In particular, the team has highlighted how certain enzymes, namely matrix metalloproteases (MMPs), can cause greater dental decay, while other MMPs can help repair dentin tissues.

Dr. Vidal and her research group are exploring effective ways to stimulate and regenerate dental tissues using insights regarding how to activate and promote helpful MMPs and reduce the presence and activity of harmful MMPs.

Dr. Vidal’s hypothesis is that the changes in the oral microbiome that accompany caries progression affect gene- and protein-expression of specific MMPs, which may be related to changes in odontoblasts. To test this hypothesis, Dr. Vidal will study changes in odontoblasts and dentin organic matrix as caries progresses.

Dr. Jeff Banas, Dr. Vidal’s mentor for the project, said, “Dr. Vidal’s research may reveal novel mechanisms involved in caries progression to an advanced state, as well as offer insight into means for using the forthcoming mechanistic understanding to consider regeneration potential and new ideas for treatment approaches.”

This research could ultimately result in inventions that prevent caries progression and repair tissues damaged by caries, thus, reducing the need for extractions, tissue removal, and restorations.

The research project is supported by a K08 award from the NIH and the NIDCR. The K08 award is a career-development award for clinical investigators that allows them to conduct focused research with a designated mentor. Dr. Jeff Banas, Dr. David Drake, and Dr. Xian Jin Xie.

An animated GIF that shows the number of records in the BigMouth repository

Augment Your Research with the BigMouth Dental Data Repository

Jun 18, 2021

The BigMouth Dental Data Repository is a comprehensive database of electronic health records provided by dental schools in a partially de-identified manner. Eleven major dental schools are currently participating with Iowa joining in 2020. This repository can be used for high-powered research using information collected from each of the participating institutions, and is a promising avenue for big data research.

At present, there are over four million electronic health records for subjects available from the repository, and Iowa provides almost 800K of them. These records can be used to discover the relationships between various oral health conditions, and it can explore risk factors for those conditions—whether they are related to demographics, prior treatments, or other health conditions.

For example, in Joshi, et. al.’s Skeletal malocclusion: a developmental disorder with a life-long morbidity, the researchers surveyed the correlations between malocclusion and other medical conditions in the available literature, including conditions as diverse as sleep apnea, cleft lip and palate, and hypertension. Using the BigMouth Dental Data Repository, they identified just over 3,000 patients diagnosed with Class I, II, or III malocclusion, and were, then, able to determine whether correlations found in significantly smaller data sets in the available literature held with this much larger group. 

The amount and quality of information available in the repository is an exciting opportunity that can provide extensive evidence in response to important clinically-oriented research questions. 

Here at Iowa, Dr. Brian Howe, director of clinics and assistant professor in the Department of Family Dentistry, and Dr. Ahmed Mahrous, assistant professor in the Department of Prosthodontics, have begun working on a project that will use the repository. They are piloting the project with data from Iowa’s own database in Axium, but plan to expand the study to include the larger data set from BigMouth.

The BigMouth team at Iowa includes Dr. Brian Howe, Chuck McBrearty, Dr. Kyungsup Shin, and Sara Miller. To learn more, including how to access the data, please review this presentation (pdf).

Chemical Beaker

College of Dentistry Ranks in Top 10 in NIDCR Research Funding

Jun 11, 2021

In 2018, the University of Iowa was ranked 30th in the country for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) funding with just under $3.2M in funds granted. In 2020, this ranking increased to 10th in the country, and 2nd in the Big 10, and to over $6.4M, an increase of over 100% in two years.

“This remarkable achievement is a testament to the excellent faculty and staff at the college, and to Dean Xie’s leadership, and highlights our role as a global leader in oral and craniofacial research” Dean David Johnsen said.

FY2020 NIDCR Grant Funding Rankings

These successes were made possible by recruiting and retaining excellent research faculty; developing support infrastructure for basic science, translational, and clinical research—including the Division of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, staff support, and establishing excellent facilities, labs, and technology; and making space for innovative clinical research. These developments have resulted in a record amount of external grants funds, and a record number of grant applications from the college.

“I want to thank our excellent team that made this success possible. We could not have done it without the great work that our faculty and research support staff have been doing, the support from Dean Johnsen and Dean Schneider, and the university administrative support. This is your success!” Associate Dean for Research Dean Xian Jin Xie said

Although these initiatives are beginning to bear fruit, the future is even brighter.

“As a college, we look forward to seeing these successes amplified with the P3-to-P50 grant and the college’s seed grant program,” Interim Dean Galen Schneider said.

The P3-to-P50 grant is a Public-Private Partnership (P3) grant to develop the infrastructure needed for a P50 oral cancer research-center grant application with National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The collegiate Seed Grant program , which began in 2020, is designed to support innovative projects from early career investigators so that they can be competitive for peer-reviewed grants from national funding agencies. Both of these initiatives point to greater research success on the horizon.

Sukirth Ganesan

Dr. Ganesan and Team Receive $75K Carver Trust COVID-19 Pilot Collaborative Award

Jun 04, 2021

Dr. Sukirth Ganesan, assistant professor in periodontics, and a team of researchers in the Carver College of Medicine, including Eric Taylor (Physiology), Ashutosh Mangalam and Kevin Legge (Pathology), were awarded a Carver Trust COVID-19 Pilot Collaborative Award. The grant, Unraveling the role of saliva in COVID- 19 pathogenesis using a comprehensive multi-omics approach, will involve a multi-arm, cross-sectional, case-control study with an integrated -omics approach to determine the microbial, metabolic, functional, and immune alterations in the saliva of COVID-19 patients. Especially, with the recent publications highlighting an important role of saliva in transmission in ARS-nCoV2 infections, the grant will help in understanding the pathogenesis of SARS-nCoV2. The multidisciplinary team draws expertise in microbiome, oral biology, metabolomics, viral genomics, immunology, and infectious diseases with Drs. Ganesan, Mangalam, and Taylor as Co-Principal investigators, Dr. Legge as co-investigator, and Drs. Val Sheffield (Molecular Genetics) and Katherine Imborek (Influenza-like-Illness clinics) as consultants. Total funding for this award is $74,900 and the one-year project starts from June 1, 2021.

Dr. Kyungsup Shin

AAO Awards Dr. Shin and His Team $30K Grant 

May 28, 2021

The American Association of Orthodontists Foundation awarded Dr. Kyungsup Shin, assistant professor in Orthodontics, and Dr. Aaron Figueroa, assistant professor in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, a $30K grant for their project, "Anti-fibrotic Effect of Exosomes on Human Temporomandibular Joint Tissues: A Pilot Study." The project is aimed at understanding the anti-fibrosis therapeutic effect of exosomes on fibrous tissues retrieved from human patients' temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

TMJ's pathological fibrous tissue can lead to seriously disabling diseases such as fibrous TMJ ankylosis. TMJ fibrous ankylosis can progress into bony ankylosis requiring surgical intervention if not appropriately treated. Despite the clear and immediate need for treatment, there are no existing non-surgical therapies to prevent or treat fibrous ankylosis in TMJ.

Recently, exosomes have attracted attention due to their great potential to promote intercellular communication leading to enhanced cell recruitment, differentiation to specific cell lineage, and tissue repair. Mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSCs) are promising sources of exosomes, and exosomes derived from bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC-Exos) showed an evident reduction of fibrosis in the liver and lung.

Dr. Shin, Dr. Figueroa, and their team hypothesize that myofibroblasts activate human fibrous ankylosis, and MSC-derived exosomes have the potential to alleviate myofibroblast activities. Dr. Shin will isolate and characterize BMSC-Exos from human BMSCs. Dr. Figueroa will screen the patients, conduct TMJ surgery such as total joint replacement, and retrieve pathologic TMJ tissue samples. Anti-fibrotic effects of human BMSC-Exos on human fibrotic TMJ tissues will be evaluated using myofibroblast expression (alpha-SMA, type I collagen) and activity (collagen gel compaction). 

Dr. Shin’s team includes co-investigators Dr. Aaron Figueroa, Dr. Dong Rim Seol (Carver College of Medicine), Dr. Xian Jin Xie, and Dr. James A Martin (Carver College of Medicine) is a consultant.

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.

Dental providers and a patient

Site Visit Review of Iowa’s Advanced Education Program in Geriatrics and Special Needs

May 07, 2021

Dr. Gretchen Gibson, an expert in oral health care for older adults who have special needs, conducted a site visit and review of the College of Dentistry’s Advanced Education Program in Geriatrics and Special Needs. The review was overwhelming positive and highlighted the great need for advanced training in the area and Iowa’s role as a leader in the field.

Dr. Howard Cowen, the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation Professor in Geriatrics and Special Needs, is the director of the program, and he and Dr. Jennifer Hartshorne, clinical associate professor in preventive and community dentistry, facilitated and helped make Dr. Gibson’s visit a success.

Older and special needs adults are a critical underserved population in dentistry, and dental care for this population is closely linked to their overall health outcomes. Iowa’s program is designed to address the needs of this group, and Iowa has become a leader in the field.

Dr. Gibson spoke to this underlying need, both for patients and in dental education.

Dental treatment planning for geriatric and special needs patients “often appear straight forward, they can quickly become complex due to the systemic and psychological issues that are involved,” Gibson explained.

She explained that the level of skill required is beyond the scope of what can be addressed in a DDS program, and Iowa’s “unique program” fills “a critically important post-graduate education opportunity that is almost absent in dental education.”

Given the strengths of the faculty and this program, Iowa is well suited to spearhead efforts to bring this specialty into the mainstream as a distinct specialization within dentistry more broadly.

Gibson’s suggestions for improvement based on the visit were intended to aid the program in its efforts to establish itself as a leader in special care dentistry, and her suggestions focused on applying and modifying some assessment tools to support these efforts.

Dr. Julie Holloway

Dr. Julie Holloway to Retire from the College of Dentistry

Apr 23, 2021

For almost a decade, Dr. Julie Holloway has been the head of the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. But service to her department only tells part of the story. Over her 28-year career in academic dentistry, Dr. Julie Holloway has been a model of excellence in research and in educating and mentoring advanced prosthodontics students, and she has served as a key leader in her department at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, and in the prosthodontics profession more generally.

As a researcher, she has:

  • Been a co-investigator in large research grants, including two NIH-funded R01s;
  • Published 54 journal articles, 27 of them during her 10 years at Iowa;
  • Authored 3 book chapters;
  • Presented numerous abstracts at local, regional, national, or international meetings and conferences.

As an educator and mentor, she has:

  • Taught extensively at both the predoctoral and postdoctoral level;
  • Published numerous articles on dental education;
  • Directed the program in advanced education for prosthodontics residents at both Iowa and Ohio State for well over a decade;
  • Served as thesis advisor for five Master’s students in prosthodontics (3 at Iowa);
  • Served as a thesis committee member for 28 other Master’s students in prosthodontics (11 at Iowa);
  • Received the Garver-Staffanou Prosthodontic Program Director's Award for Excellence from the American Academy of Fixed Prosthodontics in 2018 (shown below on the right).

Dr. Terry Lindquist, associate professor in prosthodontics, spoke glowingly of Dr. Holloway’s contributions as an educator and mentor.

Lindquist said, “She instituted changed the Prosthodontic curriculum by creating modules with the pre-clinical courses which benefitted both students and the faculty.”

“She understood the benefits and found ways of adding or doing what she could to support digital dentistry in the department for the graduate program and the faculty,” Lindquist added.  

Julie Holloway when she became president of the AAFPAs a leader in the prosthodontics profession, she has served as:

  • President of the American Academy of Fixed Prosthodontics (shown to the left); 
  • President of the Carl O. Boucher Prosthodontic Conference;
  • Treasurer of the American College of Prosthodontics;
  • Committee member for the Prosthodontics Review Committee for the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • Board member on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Dental Research Prosthodontics Group

These lists speak for themselves, but her personal impact at the College of Dentistry and the Department of Prosthodontics go well beyond these accomplishments as her students and colleagues can attest.

When Dr. Holloway came to Iowa in 2011, she started the annual tradition of serving homeless patients or veterans in need for National Prosthodontics Awareness Week. The Department of Prosthodontics has also provided care each year at the Iowa Mission of Mercy.

Dr. Lindquist expressed her appreciation for Holloway’s support and her consistent acknowledgment of what Lindquist and other faculty members contribution to the Department of Prosthodontics.

Julie Holloway receiving the Garver-Staffanous Prosthodontics Program Director's Award from the American Academy of Fixed Prosthodontics in 2018.Dr. Salahaldeen Abuhammoud wrote his Master’s thesis under Dr. Holloway’s direction and is now an assistant professor in the Department of Prosthodontics.

“Dr. Holloway is one of those rare individuals that combined excellence as a clinician, educator, mentor, and research, and her demand for perfection inspired me to be a better prosthodontist” Abuhammoud said. “That is why she is such a national and inspirational leader in our profession,” he added.

Dr. Michelle Burson is one of Dr. Holloway’s current graduate students in the Advanced Prosthodontics residency.

“Dr. Holloway is an example of the kind of prosthodontist that I want to be,” Burson said. “When you have a problem, she has an answer or does what she can to help you solve it,” she added.

“She encouraged me to be a prosthodontist, pushes me to be my best, and I use the techniques that she has taught me every single day,” she said.

For Burson, however, what stands out is how much Holloway cares about her students and patients.

These accounts are why Dr. Lindquist said, “You could see devotion to teaching the graduate students… in the laboratory or clinic, as she patiently reviewed with them the fundamentals and advanced aspects of prosthodontics.”

As Dr. Holloway moves to France after her retirement on May 3, she wishes everyone a fond “Adieu”.

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.    

Dean David Johnsen and Dr. Tarek El Kerdani

The State of Iowa and the College of Dentistry Celebrate Prosthodontics Week

Apr 16, 2021

For the past six years, the Department of Prosthodontics has celebrated National Prosthodontics Awareness week by recruiting six low-income veterans to receive a free, complete set of dentures.

Dean Johnsen, Prosthodontics Residents, and Dr. KerdaniBased on Dr. Tarek El Kerdani’s communication with the governor’s office, and to commemorate this annual event in recognition of National Prosthodontics Awareness Week, Governor Kim Reynolds declared April 5-9 Iowa Prosthodontics Awareness Week.

“The graduate prosthodontics program celebrates National Prosthodontics Awareness Week every year, by providing exceptional prosthodontic service to our community at large, enhancing visibility of the specialty of prosthodontics, and positioning prosthodontists as leaders in the dental industry,” said Dr. Kerdani.

He added, “During this week, the residents of the Graduate Prosthodontics program at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry volunteer their time and resources into constructing complete dentures, completely free of charge, for a select group of veterans with limited income.” Dr. Kerdani said.

This service for the veterans is now built into the curriculum and training for prosthodontics residents, and the project serves as a capstone for the residents who are finishing their specialty training at Iowa.

Kristen Flick, the college’s embedded social worker, finds veterans who need the services, and she talked about that process in a 2019 Daily Iowan article during this annual event, and about what this event means for the college.

“It has been especially great for our faculty and staff to get involved to see that there is this population that has needs that are not being met, dental needs specifically,” Flick said in the 2019 article. She added, “To be able to give them a resource because they have sacrificed so much is something we are happy to do to such a deserving population.”

We had a chat with three of the veterans selected this year: Roland, Kit, and Allen.

Dr. Tarin Piangsuk with his patient RolandRoland

Dr. Tarin Piangsuk, a third-year prosthodontics resident, provided care and the new set of dentures for Roland. Roland served in the first Iraqi Gulf War, and while wearing his United States Army t-shirt, he said that he was so excited to eat salads with his new dentures.

“I had some dentures before, but nothing like these! They’re so beautiful and so nice,” Roland exclaimed with a big grin.

Dr. Burson and KitKit

Dr. Michelle Burson, also a third-year prosthodontics resident, provided care and a new set of dentures for Kit. Kit served in the Vietnam war, and although he had previously had a set of dentures made 10 years ago, he said that they were falling apart.

“These new dentures look and feel great,” Kit said.

After wondering whether his previous dentures could have been maintained with regular prosthodontic care which Kit had not received, Kit explained, “I’m so glad that will examine the dentures at least once a year to make sure that they are in good working order.”

Dr. Maria Teresa and her patient AllenAllen

Dr. Maria Teresa, a first-year prosthodontics resident, provided care and a new set of dentures for Allen. Allen also served during the Vietnam war, although he was stationed in Thailand during that time. In 2012, Allen had his teeth pulled, and he had not been able to eat anything except soft foods since then. The dentures were the first ones Allen has ever had, and he knows they will make a big difference in the quality of his life.  

“I am so happy about the dentures,” Allen exclaimed with a boom in his voice.

“Although I’ve obviously not had any problems eating,” he said with a big laugh while patting his stomach, “I am really looking forward to eating apples and a steak!”

Each year, the Department of Prosthodontics makes the world a little bit easier for six low-income veterans. Roland, Kit, and Allen, among others were all grateful for the care they received, but for the college and the Department of Prosthodontics, it is a great privilege and honor to give back a little to those who have given so much for the United States.

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.

Lina Moreno

Dr. Lina Moreno Named Interim Chair of Orthodontics

Apr 08, 2021

On March 1, Dr. Lina Moreno, associate professor in the Department of Orthodontics, was named the interim Department Executive Officer of her department until a permanent chair is named for the department. Dr. Moreno began her dental and orthodontic education in Colombia, South America. After receiving her dental education, she was accepted into a graduate program in genetics at The Ohio State University. She came to the University of Iowa with her mentor, Dr. Andrew Lidral, where she received her PhD. She then entered and completed a residency in the Department of Orthodontics at the University of Iowa. In 2008, she was appointed as assistant professor in orthodontics, and in 2016, she was appointed to her present position as associate professor in orthodontics.

Dr. Moreno is an established expert in dentistry, orthodontics, and craniofacial genetics. Given her background and experiences in various interrelated disciplines, she has become a dedicated and effective clinician-scientist. At the suggestion of Dean David Johnsen, she spearheaded the transition of orthodontic care for craniofacial anomaly patients from University of Iowa Health Care to the College of Dentistry. As director of Cleft and Craniofacial Anomalies Clinic in the Department of Orthodontics, she oversees orthodontic care for most of Iowa’s patients with craniofacial deformities, including supervising attending faculty and orthodontic residents who provide this care.

Dr. Moreno is a renowned expert in craniofacial genetics and has had numerous NIH/NIDCR and American Association of Orthodontists Foundation grants supporting her research in the fields of genetics of cleft lip and palate, malocclusion, and facial variation. She has published 59 peer-reviewed articles and 2 book chapters in her fields of expertise, and one of her publications, “Major Locus for Cleft Lip and Palate Mapped to Chromosome 9Q22-Q33,” received the Milo Hellman Research Award in 2007, the most prestigious research award in the field of orthodontics.

Dr. Moreno is also a dedicated teacher and mentor. She has served as a mentor for two K awards from the NIH for trainees Drs. Brain Howe (K08) and Aline Petrin (K01). Both K awards were funded in 2018 and 2019. Under Dr. Moreno’s mentorship, Aline has secured an additional K boost grant, and she also won the Milo Hellman Research Award 2021, exactly 14 years after her mentor.

In 2017, Dr. Moreno was named to the Ross D. Christensen Family Professorship in Orthodontics. Dr. Kyungsup Shin said of Dr. Moreno, “She encapsulates all the qualities of a top-tier leader, and we look forward to her serving as interim DEO.”

Dr. Satheesh Elangovan

The Osteology Foundation Awards Drs. Elangovan and Salem Funds for a Proof of Concept Project

Apr 01, 2021

The Osteology Foundation awarded Dr. Satheesh Elangovan, professor in periodontics and Dr. Aliasger Salem, professor in pharmaceutical sciences and experimental therapeutics, $28K for their proof of concept investigation, "A Novel Topical Molecular Therapeutics to Induce Keratinization in Non-Keratinized Mucosa." 

Keratinized tissue (KT) around natural teeth and implants are vital for maintaining optimal oral hygiene, reducing marginal inflammation and preventing future gingival/mucosal recession. Currently, time tested surgical approaches are available to predictably increase KT width but they are associated with significant morbidity and potential surgical complications. In their proof of concept study, Drs Elangovan and Salem, co-prinicipal investigators for the project, propose to assess the keratinization induction potential of elastase, when delivered topically using choline geranic acid (1:1) ionic liquid (CAGE) as a delivery vehicle. If effective, this strategy has immense translational potential to become a mainstay treatment to increase KT width with significantly minimal morbidity.

Gustavo Avila Ortiz

Dr. Gustavo Avila Ortiz Named to New Endowed Professorship

May 28, 2021

Dr. Xie, Dr. Marshall, Dr. Caplan, Dr. Southard, Dr. Avila-Ortiz, Dr. Tiexiera, Dr. DamianoOn April 26, the College of Dentistry conducted an investiture ceremony for Dr. Gustavo Avila Ortiz, the chair of the Department of Periodontics, as the inaugural Philip Lainson Professor of Periodontics. An endowed faculty position is the highest honor the university can confer on a faculty member, and this particular endowed position is due to the extensive efforts of alumni and friends who wanted both to honor Professor Phil Lainson, the longtime chair of the Department of Periodontics, and to support advances in the field of periodontics. The image to the right shows 7 of the College of Dentistry's 13 endowed professors.

After an extensive and rigorous nomination and review process Professor Avila Ortiz was named to this endowed professorship. Dr. Avila Ortiz has excelled as a leader, clinical scholar, teacher, mentor at predoctoral and advanced levels, international collaborator, and trend setter in the national councils where policy and standards for patient care are set.  As DEO has shown stellar talents as a team builder.   

In addition to a generous commitment to clinical and didactic teaching at predoctoral and advanced levels, Professor Avila Ortiz has successfully mentored more than 30 individual predoctoral and postdoctoral students over the past decade.

As a clinical scholar and trend setter, he has participated in all aspects of scholarly development, manuscript preparation and submission, which has resulted in more than 100 peer reviewed publications, more than 100 presentations in scientific events and CE programs, and several national and international awards and recognitions. He also has an active and sought-after private practice. 

He received his DDS Degree in 2003 from the University of Granada (UGR), School of Dentistry (Spain) and a PhD Degree, Department of Stomatology from UGR in 2006.  In 2009, he received his MS Degree in Periodontics from the University of Michigan, School of Dentistry.  From 2009 to 2011 he served as Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine, University of Michigan, School of Dentistry.  In 2011 he joined the University of Iowa, College of Dentistry as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Periodontics, becoming Professor in 2018.  In 2017 he became Department Executive Officer in the Department of Periodontics, University of Iowa College of Dentistry.  He has been an energetic team builder, recruiting an impressive group of teachers and scholars, including several who have already secured external funding.  His international network in Periodontology circles has brought many benefits to the team.   

Professor Avila Ortiz has an impressive list of national and international awards and invited presentations including the AAP (American Academy of Periodontology) Outstanding Periodontal Educator Award in 2013, 1st Prize in the category of Clinical Research at the Academy of Osseointegration Meeting, in San Diego in 2016, 1st Prize, Clinical Research category at the Dentsply Implants World Summit in San Diego in 2017, Honorary Alumnus – University of Granada School of Dentistry (Spain) in 2018, 1st Prize at the International Osteology Symposium – Basic Science Category in 2019 (presented by Dr. Miguel Romero- Bustillos).  He was a Member of the Editorial Board of Journal of Dental Research from 2014 to 2021.  Currently, he is an Associate Editor, Journal of Periodontology starting in 2020, and Co-Editor, Clinical Advances in Periodontics starting in 2020.  He has over a dozen privately supported clinical trials with support of over $800K.  Professor Avila Ortiz has over 90 peer reviewed papers mostly on clinical research, clinical topics, and patient policy, and 10 book chapters.  Professor Avila Ortiz has given over 100 lectures nationally or internationally.  Topics have included alveolar ridge preservation and extraction site management for implant placement.

Phillip Lainson, Georgia Johnson, and Gustavo Avila-OrtizUpon receiving this honor, Dr. Avila Ortiz said:

“Not even in my most adventurous dreams, first as a dental student and later when I started a career in academics, could I have imagined that I would be honored with such a recognition. I would like to thank the University of Iowa and the College of Dentistry for granting me this honor. I am truly humbled. My thoughts go to all the people that have supported (and put up with) me over the years: my family, friends, colleagues and mentors. Thanks also to all the members of the Department of Periodontics for being such a great and cohesive team, especially in the hardest of circumstances. I would also like to acknowledge all the donors that have made this Professorship possible—for their tremendous generosity and commitment to the advancement of the department. And finally, I would like to express a special appreciation for Dr. Phillip A. Lainson, after whom this Professorship is named. I did not have the privilege of working with Phil, but I have had the tremendous pleasure of meeting him several times since I joined the University of Iowa, and I have heard from other people what an extraordinary leader he was during his tenure in our College. Dr. Lainson continues to be a source of inspiration for new generations of periodontists and I cannot be prouder to have my name connected to his and his legacy.”

Dr. Avila Ortiz's investiture as the Philip Lainson Professor of Periodontics was held on April 26 with people attending virtually via Zoom and in person. This investiture brings the total number of endowed faculty members at the College of Dentistry to 13.

Story updated with investitutre ceremony images and information.

Erica Teixeira

Dr. Erica Teixeira Awarded $35K Grant

Mar 12, 2021

Dr. Erica Teixeira, associate professor and chair of the Department of Operative Dentistry, was awarded a $35K  subcontract from the National Institutes of Health via the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio to develop a boron nitride nanosheet (BNNS)-based filler system to enhance dental composite performance in tooth restorations.

Some studies estimate that dental composites tend to last for less than 8 years due to failures usually related to polymerization shrinkage and shrinkage stress, resin degradation, secondary caries and restoration fracture. These failed restorations must be repaired or replaced. Thus, a restorative system that lasts longer would address a substantial and urgent need in dental and oral health care.

To meet this need while working toward a long-term goal of bringing graphene technology to the dental materials toolbox, Dr. Teixeira was awarded a sub-contract as part of an R56 (PI: Whang-UTHSCSA) entitled, “Boron Nitride Nanosheets (BNNSs) to Enhance Dental Composite Performance.” The overall goal of this project is to develop a boron nitride nanosheet (BNNS)-based filler system to enhance dental composite performance, by determining the effects of BNNS loading on composite total filler loading, curing, physical and optical properties and the in vitro cytotoxicity of BNNS-loaded composites.

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.

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.  

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. 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

Orthodontics Professor with a student

Leading the World in Dental Education

Feb 05, 2021

Whether it is fostering on-the-ground clinical experiences for our graduates, developing a curriculum closely tailored to the needs of 21st century dentists, promoting cutting-edge educational innovations, or leading the way in dental education scholarship, the University of Iowa College of Dentistry is a worldwide leader in the field of dental education. According to Dean David Johnsen nurturing a culture of inquiry and respect is crucial to the Iowa experience.

One of the most consistent messages from our alumni is that their vast amounts of clinic experiences prepared them well to excel as dentists. Graduates from the college have as much experience in ADA recognized specialties as any dental graduates in the country. Both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the college has been a leader in clinical activity for our predoctoral dental students, ranking fifth in the nation in total clinical activity despite having significantly fewer students than higher ranked dental schools. In the Big Ten, Iowa has nearly twice the clinical activity in the fourth year than does each other dental school.

This level of clinical activity is matched with Iowa’s innovative and unique curriculum, spearheaded by the college’s Associate Dean for Education and Curriculum, Dr. Michelle Krupp. The overarching goal of the curriculum is to transform dental novices into independent, competent, and autonomous dentists over the course of four years beginning with foundational knowledge and limited clinical experiences through focused educational and clinical experiences in a wide range of dental specialties in the third-year, and culminating with a vast amount of clinical experiences during the fourth year where students synthesize and integrate what they have learned as they apply it in clinical experiences in the Department of Family Dentistry. This curriculum is infused with a focus on critical thinking and implementing evidence-based practices, and despite the educational and clinical challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, the faculty, staff, and students at Iowa have continued to grow and thrive.

This unique and transformative environment has also fostered a dedicated group of researchers and clinicians who are experts in the field of dental education. Two of our faculty members, Dr. Satheesh Elangovan and Dr. Leo Marchini are on the editorial board for the Journal of Dental Education, the flagship journal in dental education.

Additionally, each year, the American Dental Education Association offers national webinars on important topics in dental education on a wide variety of topics. From June through November, University of Iowa faculty and staff have presented three of these national webinars, including Dean David Johnsen’s webinar, “Critical Thinking in Dental Education,” drawing from his co-authored publications with many UI dental faculty members expressing the thinking of experts in discrete manageable steps that allow students to see, understand, and reproduce in assessments the thinking of experts in a variety of fields.

It also included Dr. Ahmed Mahrous, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Prosthodontics, whose webinar, “Where Are We? Virtual and Augmented Reality in Dental Education” drew from his cutting-edge research describing how digital technology and techniques can replace physical objects, like teeth, models, and so forth. Such an approach gives greater flexibility and availability for dental education, and this research has resulted in numerous publications, and Dr. Mahrous and Dr. Amira Elgreatly, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Operative Dentistry, received an Iowa Challenge award to develop a entrepreneurial project based on this work.

The third webinar was presented by the college’s embedded social worker, Kirsten Flick, and Ann Synan, patient representative specialist and communication coordinator, entitled “Taking CARE of Barriers: How Social Work Impacts Dental Education.” Flick and Synan spoke about the value of taking a social-work perspective in patient care and its great impact on patient care and improving access to care.

These snapshots into the educational landscape at Iowa give a small glimpse of the large tapestry of talent and energy that the college has dedicated to its educational enterprise. That’s why Iowa will remain a leader in dental education.

Emma Miller with her COVID-19 Vaccine Card

College of Dentistry Faculty, Staff, and Students Receive First Round of COVID-19 Vaccinations

Jan 22, 2021

The vaccine rollout at the University of Iowa initially began by prioritizing first-line health care providers, and it has recently expanded to include health care providers more generally, including College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics faculty, staff, and students who are directly involved in patient care. As COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States continue to rise, these vaccinations point toward a light at the end of this journey.

The first faculty and staff members at the College of Dentistry received their vaccinations through University Employee Health Clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics last week, and dental students began receiving their vaccinations from University of Iowa Student Health this week. Many adjunct faculty members are receiving vaccinations from local Departments of Health in their home, or surrounding counties.

These vaccinations are the first in a series of two vaccinations. After the second vaccination, the Moderna vaccination is 94.1% effective at preventing laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the Pfizer vaccination is 95% effective at preventing them.

Since more data are needed to determine how effective these vaccinations are at preventing transmission of COVID-19, the CDC has recommended that vaccinated individuals continue to social distance and wear personal protection equipment (including masks). As such, the College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics is maintaining current risk mitigation protocols, including social distancing, PPE requirements, and other risk mitigation efforts, even after all faculty, staff, and students in the building has been given both vaccine doses.

At this time, the college does not know when faculty, residents, and staff members who are not involved in patient care will be offered vaccinations.

Dr. Mike Kanellis, associate dean of clinics, has been consistently sending out email updates on the latest vaccination information for College of Dentistry faculty, staff, and students, and as more information becomes available, he will continue to communicate it to the college.

Photos provided by Faculty/Staff/Students are below.

D3 Students: Emma Miller, Brady Ellis, and Maddie Kasparek with their COVID-19 vaccine cards. Third-year dental students, Emma Miller, Brady Ellis, and Maddie Kasparek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

D1 Students Sarmad Hussein, Luke Hovey, and Grant Kincaid First-year dental students Sarmad Hussein, Luke Hovey, and Grant Kincaid

 

 

 

 

 

 

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."

ADEA

The College of Dentistry is a Leader in Dental Education

Jan 15, 2021

Each year, ADEA offers national webinars on important topics in dental education on a wide variety of topics. From June through November, University of Iowa faculty and staff have presented three of these national webinars.

In June, Dean David Johnsen presented a webinar, “Critical Thinking in Dental Education,” drawing from his work with many UI dental faculty members expressing the thinking of experts in discrete manageable steps that allow students to see, understand, and reproduce in assessments the thinking of experts in a variety of fields. The webinar is available (with ADEA membership) on ADEA’s website.

In October, Dr. Ahmed Mahrous, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Prosthodontics, presented another webinar, “Where Are We? Virtual and Augmented Reality in Dental Education.” In this webinar, Dr. Mahrous discussed current digital technology and techniques for replacing physical objects, like teeth, models, and so forth, with digital alternatives. Such an approach gives greater flexibility and availability in dental education. The webinar is available (with ADEA membership) on ADEA’s website.

In November, the college’s embedded social worker, Kirsten Flick, and Ann Synan, patient representative specialist and communication coordinator, presented “Taking CARE of Barriers: How Social Work Impacts Dental Education.” Flick and Synan spoke about the value of taking a social-work perspective in patient care and its great impact patient care and improving access to care. The webinar is available (currently available even without an ADEA membership) on ADEA’s website.

These three talks highlight the impact that Iowa has nationally and internationally in dental education.