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Oral molecular and immunopathology

Programme director:

Professor Alison Rich

Understanding diseases in order to improve diagnosis and treatment

Our aim is to investigate the cellular, and molecular basis of oral diseases, and their treatment.

We focus our work in three areas:

  • Oral mucosal disease (including squamous cell carcinoma)
  • Periodontal diseases
  • Angiogenesis and tissue regeneration

Immunopathological mechanisms underpinning oral mucosal diseases

Oral mucosal diseases including oral squamous cell carcinoma are being investigated using single and double layer immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry coupled with focused micro-arrays to determine gene expression profiles. Of major interest is regulation of the local immune response in oral mucosal lichen planus and in oral squamous cell carcinoma.

Angiogenesis, and endoplasmic reticulum stress are also being investigated in these lesions so as to develop a better understanding of the role of these mechanisms in the pathogenesis of mucosal lesions.

Periodontal diseases and interrelationships with systemic diseases

The immunoregulatory control of chronic periodontitis as well as the role of epigenetics to determine the influence of environmental factors, such as tobacco smoking on disease progression, are the main focus of this research.

Cellular, molecular, immunological and pathological tools including cell culture, genomic and focused micro-arrays, real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), laser microdissection, and immunohistochemistry are all being used in these studies.

Leading study explores the relationship between periodontal and cardiovascular diseases

The relationship between periodontal disease and systemic diseases is being investigated as part of a multidisciplinary international collaborative study with the School of Medicine of the University of Queensland. A major 5 year longitudinal clinical and laboratory study on the relationship between periodontal and cardiovascular disease is being carried out. This study has attracted substantial funding over the past 5 years and as a result the group is considered a world leader in this field.

Angiogenesis and tissue regeneration

The effect of bisphosphonates on angiogenic gene expression in gingival fibroblasts, osteoblasts and osteoclasts and their influence on the pathogenesis of Bisphosphonate Related Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (BRONJ) is a major focus of this research.

The interest in angiogenesis also extends to pulpal tissues in terms of adult root development.

In collaboration with the oral implantology research group, immunohistology, and gene expression approaches are being used to determine the effect of implant surface type and morphology on the osteogenic potential of adipose-derived stem cells. The odontogenic potential of multipotential cells derived from deciduous human dental pulps is also being investigated.