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Penn-led research suggests a new strategy to prevent or halt periodontal disease
Date:12/7/2012

PHILADELPHIA Periodontitis, a form of chronic gum disease that affects nearly half of the U.S. adult population, results when the bacterial community in the mouth becomes unbalanced, leading to inflammation and eventually bone loss. In its most severe form, which affects 8.5 percent of U.S. adults, periodontitis can impact systemic health.

By blocking a molecular receptor that bacteria normally target to cause the disease, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have now demonstrated an ability in a mouse model to both prevent periodontitis from developing and halt the progression of the disease once it has already developed.

The study, published in the Journal of Immunology, was led by Toshiharu Abe, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiology in Penn's School of Dental Medicine. Abe works in the lab of George Hajishengallis, a professor in the department who was a senior author on the paper. The co-senior author was John D. Lambris, the Dr. Ralph and Sallie Weaver Professor of Research Medicine in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in Penn's Perelman School of Medicine. Kavita B. Hosur and Evlambia Hajishengallis from Penn Dental Medicine also contributed to the research, as did Penn Medicine's Edimara S. Reis and Daniel Ricklin.

In previous research, Hajishengallis, Lambris and colleagues showed that Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacterium responsible for many cases of periodontitis, acts to "hijack" a receptor on white blood cells called C5aR. The receptor is part of the complement system, a component of the immune system that helps clear infection but can trigger damaging inflammation if improperly controlled.

By hijacking C5aR, P. gingivalis subverts the complement system and handicaps immune cells, rendering them less able to clear infection from the gum tissue. As a result, numbers of P. gingivalis and other microbes rise and create severe inflammation. According to a
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Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie
kbaillie@upenn.edu
215-898-9194
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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