Take that to the bank: saved plaque sample may provide health answers

Canadian researchers are saving up for the future by banking on plaque.
What worth could there be in a collection of filmy, sticky bacteria—the bane of healthy teeth and gums?
The researchers believe that their storage of plaque samples can be used to predict, identify and even treat diseases in the body. Located at the newly formed Oral Microbiome and Metagenomics Research Lab, Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto, the plaque bank has “fingerprints” all over it—though not because there was a break-in or attempted theft. The fingerprints belong to 16S rRNA, a gene that is unique to each bacterial type – yet present in all bacteria on the planet, the OMMR researchers say.
The project leaders see analysis of 16S rRNA as the gold standard for bacterial identification, even more valuable than saliva in oral microbiome research.
Using a sample of plaque the size of a pinhead, the researchers can use 16S rRNA to help identify all bacteria in a sample and the further distinguish each individual species. They can then compare the composition of bacteria in a plaque sample from a healthy person to samples of people with specific diseases. In this way, they can create a comprehensive catalog of health through the kind and number of bacteria located in the plaque samples. The catalog someday may serve as a tool in analyzing disease risk or monitoring how a patient responds to particular treatments.
The ADA consumer website MouthHealthy.org has more information on the role plaque plays in tooth decay. Search under A-Z Topics from the homepage.

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