A visit to the dentist could one day require a detailed look at how genes in a patient's body are being switched on or off, as well as examining their pearly whites, according to researchers at the University of Adelaide.
In a new paper published in the Australian Dental Journal, researchers from the University of Adelaide's School of Dentistry have written about the current and future use of the field of epigenetics as it relates to oral health.
Speaking on Dentist's Day (Thursday 6 March), co-author Associate Professor Toby Hughes says epigenetics has much to offer in the future treatment and prevention of dental disease.
"Our genetic code, or DNA, is like an orchestra - it contains all of the elements we need to function - but the epigenetic code is essentially the conductor, telling which instruments to play or stay silent, or how to respond at any given moment," Associate Professor Hughes says.
"This is important because, in the case of oral health, epigenetic factors may help to orchestrate healthy and unhealthy states in our mouths. They respond to the current local environment, such as the type and level of our oral microbes, regulating which of our genes are active. This means we could use them to determine an individual's state of health, or even influence how their genes behave. We can't change the underlying genetic code, but we may be able to change when genes are switched on and off," he says.
Associate Professor Hughes is part of a team of researchers at the University of Adelaide that has been studying the underlying genetic and environmental influences on dental development and oral health.
He says that since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2007, epigenetics has had an increasing role in biological and medical research.
"Dentistry can also greatly benefit from new research in this area," he says. "It could open up a range of opportunities for diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
"We know that our genome plays a key role in our dental development, and in a range of oral diseases; we know that the oral microbiota also play a key role in the state of our oral health; we now have the potential to develop an epigenetic profile of a patient, and use all three of these factors to provide a more personalized level of care.
"Other potential oral health targets for the study of epigenetics include the inflammation and immune responses that lead to periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss; and the development and progression of oral cancers.
"What's most exciting is the possibility of screening for many of these potential oral health problems from an early age so that we can prevent them or reduce their impact."
The full paper can be found at the Australian Dental Journal's website.
Associate Professor Toby Hughes
School of Dentistry
The University of Adelaide
Phone: +61 8 8313 3295
Toby Hughes | EurekAlert!
Fruit fly studies shed light on adaptability of nerve cells
17.04.2015 | Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)
Rare monkey photographed in Congo's newest national park, Ntokou-Pikounda
17.04.2015 | Wildlife Conservation Society
Astronomers from Chalmers University of Technology have used the giant telescope Alma to reveal an extremely powerful magnetic field very close to a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy
Astronomers from Chalmers University of Technology have used the giant telescope Alma to reveal an extremely powerful magnetic field very close to a...
A team of physicists from MPQ, Caltech, and ICFO proposes the combination of nano-photonics with ultracold atoms for simulating quantum many-body systems and creating new states of matter.
Ultracold atoms in the so-called optical lattices, that are generated by crosswise superposition of laser beams, have been proven to be one of the most...
According to new research out of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, that is indeed the case. Chetan Jinadatha, M.D., M.P.H., assistant...
Researchers from ICFO, MIT and UC Riverside have been able to develop a graphene-based photodetector capable of converting absorbed light into an electrical voltage at ultrafast timescales
The efficient conversion of light into electricity plays a crucial role in many technologies, ranging from cameras to solar cells.
Electrical charges not only move through wires, they also travel along lengths of DNA, the molecule of life. The property is known as charge transport.
In a new study appearing in the journal Nature Chemistry, authors, Limin Xiang, Julio Palma, Christopher Bruot and others at Arizona State University's...
13.04.2015 | Event News
25.03.2015 | Event News
19.03.2015 | Event News
17.04.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering
17.04.2015 | Earth Sciences
17.04.2015 | Physics and Astronomy