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Immune Cells Destroy Bone In Gum Disease

Immune cells play a big role in the bone loss that results due to periodontal or gum disease, according to researchers at The Forsyth Institute. Earlier researchers had// speculated that the immune system was involved in destruction of bone in periodontal disease, but this is the first time it has been confirmed in human gum tissue. Forsyth researchers hope that the finding would help create new ways to stop bone loss in gum disease.

The study, led by Toshihisa Kawai, D.D.S., Ph.D., examined whether immune response to periodontal bacteria is protective or pathogenic in the context of gum disease. Periodontal disease is an infection of the teeth, and their supporting structures, which results in soft tissue and bone destruction, leading to tooth loss. Dr. Kawai and his colleagues had found that B cells (B and T lymphocytes are immune cells) can contribute to increased periodontal bone loss coordinating with activated T-cells. Both cell types had previously been found to manifest a host immune response to the bacteria causing bone loss in animal models, by his group.

"This research validates our hypothesis that immune cells are harmful in gum disease," said Dr. Kawai. "It's a groundbreaking discovery because it truly gives a new understanding of periodontal disease, while also raising interesting questions about immune cells. We hope this work will help us save people's teeth in the future."

Research Overview

RANKL is a protein that is a major factor in the regulation of osteoclasts (cells that destroy bone). Dr. Kawai's research examined the receptor activator of NF-kB ligand, (RANKL)-mediated osteoclastogeneis, and the pivotal role it plays in inflammatory bone resorption. The aim of this study, which will be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Pathology, was to identify the cellular source of RANKL in the bone resorptive lesions of periodontal disease. An active periodontal lesion is characterize
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