Dental schools advised to embrace scientific research
But to help the "post-genomic era enter the mouth," dental schools must change, Dr. Lawrence Tabak told about 100 Tufts dental students and faculty members at the conclusion of the school's annual, research-focused Bates-Andrews Day on March 5.
"We have got to break out of the tooth-yanking model and infuse science into the culture of dental schools," said Tabak, formerly director of the Center for Oral Biology at the University of Rochester.
"Schools must offer the flexibility to faculty and students to engage in scholarly activities, and they must admit a subset of students committed to science. Go on, admit a few nerds like me," he joked.
In 1998, less than 2 percent of graduating dental students were interested in teaching or research, Tabak said. By 2000, that number had sunk to less than 1 percent—a trend that must be reversed. "Oral research needs you!" he said.
In a fast-paced, power-book presentation, Tabak noted that stem cells, which hold the potential to become any type of cell, have been isolated in dental pulp. He suggested that perhaps stem cells eventually could be used to regenerate damaged teeth.
He also pointed out that the salivary gland is a candidate for use in gene therapy: "It might be the ultimate bioreactor to produce proteins that are lacking in the body."
Defining the genome was the first step in solving the "puzzle of complex diseases," Tabak said. The next challenge is to define the proteome—a catalog of all gene products. And then science must decipher which proteins interact and what their functions are; define genetic regulatory networks; and describe molecular anatomy—the spatial and temporal atlas of all protein expression.
"We eventually will have a comprehensive, multi-platform analysis," he predicted. "There will be a tremendous integration and tremendous interrogation of massive databases. In the science of the future, everyone will be talking with everyone."
That "everyone" must include dentists, said Tabak, who urged Tufts School of Dental Medicine to partner with medical and public health schools to promote multidisciplinary science.
Dental schools, with their large patient bases, are in an excellent position to help translate research into practice, Tabak said, and to help "catalyze the shift from fighting disease to health surveillance."
And the winners are…
Andrews Society Award for Best Scientific Research Presentation by a Senior (cash prize): Michael Kostrov, D03, and Mark Jefferies, D03, "Traditional (Stepback) Instrumentation Technique vs. Modified Rotary Instrumentation Technique in the Predoctoral Endodontic Clinic"
1st place ADA/Dentsply Student Clinician Program Award for Best Overall Predoctoral Table Clinic (travel to the 2003 American Dental Association meeting): Chad Anderson, D04, "Clinical Evaluation of Two Different In-Office Tooth Whitening Systems"
2nd place Predoctoral Table Clinic Award (travel to the 2003 Greater New York Dental Meeting): Charley Cheney, D04, "Effects of Histological Dyes on the Ionic Activity of Restorative Materials in vitro"
3rd place Predoctoral Table Clinic Award (travel to the 2003 Greater New York Dental Meeting): Bryan Beagan, D05, "Prevalence of Tobacco Use in Patients at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine"
Bates Society Award for Best Postgraduate Table Clinic (cash prize): Dr. Dania Islam, pediatric dentistry, "Bond Strength Comparison in Class IV: Preparation Utilizing Air Abration and Chamfer vs. Utilizing Chamfer Only"
Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU) Research Award (cash prize): Natanya Marracino, D05, "Which Vector Is Most Effective in Gene Transfer to Salivary Glands?"
Research Committee Award for Basic Science Research (cash prize): Lili Tayari, D05, "Co-expression of the c-kit Receptor and Its Ligand, Stem Cell Factor in Cell Populations of the Oral Cavity"
Proctor & Gamble Traveling Fellowship Award (travel to the 2003 American
Association of Dental Research meeting): Lili Tayari, D05,
"Co-expression of the c-kit Receptor and Its Ligand, Stem Cell Factor
in Cell Populations of the Oral Cavity"