Dental Medicine Celebrates Research, Scholarship

“Genomics, Epigenomics and Oral Health” was the theme of the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine’s fifth annual Celebration of Research and Scholarship on Aug. 21. Faculty, students and residents presented 50 posters spanning the categories of biomedical and translational research, clinical and population research, case reports and series, biomaterials and bioengineering, and the scholarship of teaching, learning, service and engagement. In addition to participants from the School of Dental Medicine, other campus groups were represented, including the Biomaterials Research Cluster, which maintains laboratory space in Ross Hall, the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Allied Health Sciences, and the Brody School of Medicine.

Presenter shares research poster at Dental School event

Dr. Saulo Geraldeli, division director of biomedical materials at the ECU School of Dental Medicine presented research entitled “From Nanoparticles to Aged Restorations—Enamel-Dentin Remineralization, Bioactivity and Adhesive Interfacial Analysis.”

In addition, the event featured five oral presentations, including, “How Diagnostic Molecular Pathology is Reclassifying Salivary Gland Neoplasms,” “Epigenomics of Periodontal Disease,” and “Simulating Poverty to Prepare Dental Students to Serve the Underserved.”

Keith Keene, associate professor of biology and interim director of the ECU Center for Health Disparities, delivered a keynote presentation on “Using Integrative ‘Omics’ Approaches to Eliminate Health Disparities.”  Keene’s research utilizes genetic, epigenetic, metabolomics, statistical, and molecular biology methodologies to identify heritable risk factors and biomarkers contributing to health disparities, such as stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Kimon Divaris, associate professor of pediatric and public health at the UNC Adams School of Dentistry, delivered the second featured presentation on “Genomic Insights in Dental Caries and Periodontal Disease.” Divaris’ research interests include both proximal and distal determinants of oral health and disease, ranging from genomics of oral health traits and behavioral sciences to health disparities and dental education. Divaris is the principal investigator on a NIH-funded project exploring the genomic and social determinants of dental caries among approximately 8,000 North Carolina children enrolled in the Head Start program.

The following awards were presented at the research event. 

Dental Student Awards

Second-year student Jonathan Knowlin received the Dentsply Sirona Student Research Award to present his findings on “Attitudes and Barriers to Oral Health Care as Perceived by Psychiatric Patients and Dental Providers” at the annual session of the American Association for Dental Research in Washington, D.C., in March 2020.

First-year student Corey Winkler will present his research on color stability of dental composite materials during the Student Competition for Advancing Dental Research (SCADA) at the American Association for Dental Research in 2021.

Second-year student Chandler Conner will present a case study of anatomical variations of mental foramen as detected by three-dimensional imaging at the Hinman Student Research Symposium in Tennessee in 2020.

Third-year student Alec Bankhead will present his retrospective data on “Malignant Lymphoproliferative Disorders Affecting the Oral Cavity” at the American Association for Dental Research Annual Meeting in Boston in 2021.

Faculty Pilot Grant Awards

This is the second year that the ECU School of Dental Medicine and the UNC Adams School of Dentistry have committed resources to fund two research collaboration planning grants with principal investigators from both institutions.

Andres Flores, ECU clinical assistant professor and division director of oral and maxillofacial pathology in the Department of Surgical Sciences, and Ricardo Padilla, associate professor and program director of oral and maxillofacial pathology at UNC Adams School of Dentistry, were awarded a 2019-2020 ECU-UNC Research Collaboration Planning Grant. Their winning proposal is entitled, “Profiling of Oral Cell Morphology by Means of a Novel Label-Free Method of Polarization Diffraction Imaging,” and includes Xin-Hua Hu and Li Yang from the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences and Brody School of Medicine, respectively, as co-investigators.

Timothy Wright, distinguished professor of pediatric dentistry at UNC Adams School of Dentistry, and Michael Webb, clinical associate professor and chair of the ECU Department of Pediatric Dentistry, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, were awarded the second ECU-UNC research collaboration planning grant. Their proposal is entitled, “Decoding the Genetic Complexity of Dental Inheritable Disorders,” and include Singwai Wong of UNC as a co-investigator.