Type 2 diabetes is a significant and increasingly prevalent disease in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, 23.6 million people — nearly 8 percent of the population — have diabetes, with type 2 diabetes accounting for between 90 and 95 percent of all diagnosed cases.
Of particular concern to dental professionals, type 2 diabetics are twice as likely to suffer from periodontitis, or gum disease. However, a full understanding of the microbiome — the community of microbes, their genomes and their interactions — associated with periodontitis in type 2 diabetics is lacking.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, has now granted the UCLA School of Dentistry more than $2.9 million to fund a four-year, comprehensive study of this microbiome.
The project, led by principal investigators Susan Kinder Haake, professor of periodontics at the UCLA School of Dentistry, and Huiying Li, assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, will complement the NIH's five-year Human Microbiome Project, which aims to understand whether changes in the human microbiome are associated with changes in health.
The UCLA project is two-fold and is possible only because of recent advances in DNA sequencing technology. The study will define both the community of microbes and the metagenomic signatures — including genes, metabolic pathways, insertion sequences and pathogenicity islands — that distinguish the subgingival (below the gum) microbiome associated with chronic periodontitis in type 2 diabetics from that of systemically healthy individuals.
"We already know that the host immune response is altered in type 2 diabetics. In the periodontal tissues, these changes may in part result from, as well as potentially affect, the associated microbiome," Kinder Haake said. "Our new research addresses a fundamental gap in the knowledge of the periodontal microbiome associated with type 2 diabetes, and it may ultimately lead to the development of innovative clinical approaches to preventing, diagnosing and managing periodontal disease in diabetics."
The research team also includes Peter Butler, professor and chief of the division of endocrinology, diabetes and hypertension at the Geffen School of Medicine and director of the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at UCLA; Lawrence Wolinsky, professor of oral biology at the UCLA School of Dentistry; and Audrey Simons, community services and grants administrator at Mission Community Hospital in San Fernando, Calif.
"This research project will generate important knowledge and facilitate a better understanding of how oral bacteria is associated with type 2 diabetes," said No-Hee Park, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. "We are proud that our dental school scientists, in collaboration with UCLA medical school researchers, will take part in advancing this science."
The UCLA School of Dentistry is dedicated to improving the oral health of the people of California, the nation and the world through its teaching, research, patient care and public service initiatives. The school provides education and training programs that develop leaders in dental education, research, the profession and the community; conducts research programs that generate new knowledge, promote oral health and investigate the cause, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral disease; and delivers patient-centered oral health care to the community and state.