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Molecular approach leads to new discoveries in oral pathogen research

Scientists at the University of Florida and the University of Washington have used cutting-edge molecular research techniques to identify thousands of proteins produced by the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis, giving them a route to discover how the bacterium works as a leading cause of tooth loss plus a possibility of developing drugs or vaccines to stop the invader.

P. gingivalis secretes some 2,000 proteins that destroy soft tissue and bone in the mouth, causing periodontal disease. Until now, scientists had only identified less than 2 percent of the bacterium's proteins and had to guess about which other proteins might be present.

Researchers were able to more closely pinpoint how the proteins react in the oral cavity-not just in a laboratory-to see which proteins are more important in causing periodontal disease. The next step, they say, will be to expose P. gingivalis to other oral pathogens to see how they interact and if they contribute to infection.

People with periodontal disease are at greater risk for stroke and heart attack. It also makes it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar and dramatically increases a woman's chances of delivering a low-weight, preterm baby.

The proteins are the mechanism that causes periodontal disease and will be the targets for drugs developed to treat periodontal disease in the future, researchers say.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

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