San Antonio (March 9, 2004) – A team from the Dental School and School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of only four groups worldwide to win the 2004 Innovation in Oral Care Award, which will be conferred this week by the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) and GlaxoSmithKline.
Spencer W. Redding, D.D.S., M.Ed., professor of general dentistry and director of the clinical research facility in the Dental School, and his colleagues will share $360,000 with researchers in Israel, Oregon and California. The awards, funded by GlaxoSmithKline and administered by the IADR, will be formally presented during the IADR’s 82nd General Session March 10-13 in Honolulu.
An internationally recognized panel of experts reviewed more than 60 applications before selecting the honorees. The awards, $90,000 to each group, are intended to inspire new directions in oral care research and provide opportunities for investigators to study the development of novel compounds, biomaterials or devices that will improve quality of life.
The Health Science Center group seeks to develop a surface coating to prevent a problem called denture stomatitis. This inflammation occurs in up to two-thirds of patients who wear dentures, especially in older individuals. “We were very pleased to receive this award,” Dr. Redding said. “Our group has expertise in both dental materials and infectious disease.”
Dr. Redding, the project’s principal investigator, has published research on a fungal microorganism called Candida, which is thought to be a major cause of denture stomatitis. “Denture wearers get this problem on the surface where the denture contacts the tissue,” he said. “That’s an area where Candida can grow.” Denture stomatitis particularly affects the roof of the mouth under the upper denture.
Jose Lopez-Ribot, Pharm.D., Ph.D., a co-investigator in the project and associate professor of medicine in the Health Science Center School of Medicine, specializes in the study of Candida biofilms. “When someone wears a denture and they have Candida underneath it, the organism doesn’t exist by itself but is in a biofilm that is more resistant to treatment,” Dr. Redding commented. He and Dr. Lopez-Ribot are part of a strong group of Health Science Center researchers who focus on medical mycology, the study of fungi.
Project co-investigator H. Ralph Rawls, Ph.D., professor of restorative dentistry, studies biomaterials used in dentistry. The coating to be tested for denture stomatitis prevention is a novel combination of polymers (or long-chain molecules). “It is a fast-drying, paper-thin coating that has tiny pores,” Dr. Rawls said. “It lets vapor in and out but not water. Because of the pores, we can incorporate other ingredients to be released, such as antifungal agents.”
The polymer actually has been tested for other applications, but it was Dr. Redding, an expert in hospital dentistry and fungal infections in the oral cavity, who suggested putting it on dentures. Preliminary trials in Candida cultures have shown that the coating prevents cell attachment that would be necessary to propagate the Candida.
The fourth grant investigator is Gregg Siegel of San Antonio-based Biomedical Development Corp. The Health Science Center researchers plan to modify the proprietary coating made by the company. “This is a perfect example of translational research in partnership with industry,” Dr. Redding said. “With this grant we will develop the best formulation to prevent Candida biofilm formation in the laboratory. Then we will test the new technology in patients with dentures.”
“This is great recognition of the excellence of our Dental School by the IADR and by GlaxoSmithKline,” said Kenneth L. Kalkwarf, D.D.S., dean of the school. “The American Association for Dental Research [the U.S. division of the IADR] has annually recognized the caliber of our dental students with more student research awards than any other U.S. dental school. To be selected for this honor is like icing on that cake, and is great validation for our continuing mission to be the best dental school in America and, indeed, in the world.”