Faculty Researchers

2018 Research Paper Round-up6 min read

January 16, 2019

2018 Research Paper Round-up6 min read

Dental school faculty published significant research in a variety of high-impact journals

Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan. 18, 2019 -– With more than $16 million in annual research expenditures, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry supports a large research operation that ranges from innovative clinical trials for dentistry to advancing our understanding of cancer to leading breakthroughs in new disciplines such as regenerative medicine.

The school’s faculty contributes regularly to leading scientific journals, helping promote the development of new knowledge in the oral health sciences and related fields that contribute to improved health for people around the country and the world.

This microscopic image from the Noriaki Ono lab shows a bone growth plate (the dark band in the middle) with skeletal stem cells (in red), which new research shows are actively involved in bone growth. Green cells are osteoblasts, or bone-making cells. The very bottom is the bone and bone marrow.

Research is a vital component of the school’s mission of “advancing health through education, service, research and discovery,” said Russell Taichman, Associate Dean for Research. “Essential to our research mission is promoting an integration of basic, translational, clinical and health services research, along with associated educational programs, to stimulate discoveries and their implementation into practice. A testament to this effort is the variety, volume and caliber of literature our faculty publishes each year.”

In 2018, the school’s faculty published 172 papers, articles and reviews. The following summaries describe some of the top papers, based on the impact factor of the journals in which they were published. Links to their PubMed abstracts are included.

• Nature: Resting Zone of the Growth Plate Houses a Unique Class of Skeletal Stem Cells. This paper explores why some types of bone deformities and fragile bone diseases occur in patients. The epiphyseal growth plate is a cartilaginous tissue and an important driver of bone growth. It was long thought that cells in the resting zone of the growth plate don’t divide, but this paper shares discoveries that some cells there wake up and start to make rapidly dividing chondrocytes that maintain bone growth. Author: Noriaki Ono, et al.

• Journal of Clinical Investigation: Apoptosis-induced CXCL5 Accelerates Inflammation and Growth of Prostate Tumor Metastases in Bone.  Considering tumors that metastasize to bone,  this paper shares the findings in both animal models and human patients, that normal immune cells which clear up dead tumor cells in turn respond with negative effects that support further tumor growth.  Elucidation of these specific mediators in common immune system pathways provide a focus area for future therapeutic development. Authors: Hernan Roca, Laurie McCauley, et al.

• Clinical Cancer Research: Mitigating SOX2-potentiated Immune Escape of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma with a STING-inducing Nanosatellite Vaccine.  A major tumor resistance strategy to immunotherapy is that head and neck cancers often have a poor infiltration of anti-tumor immune cells. This study identifies an oncogene frequently amplified in head and neck cancer, SOX2, as a potent inhibitor of STING-mediated innate immune sensing of tumors. The team engineered a nanoparticle cancer vaccine that restores STING signaling and significantly sensitizes cold cancers to checkpoint blockade. The findings uncover a central mechanism that leads to cancer immune escape, and help to improve vaccine design that can potentially expand responders to immunotherapy. Author: Yu Leo Lei, et al.

• Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): Autocrine Regulation of Mesenchymal Progenitor Cell Fates Orchestrates Tooth Eruption. The fundamental development of teeth is explored in this paper and points to a unique mechanism in skeletal cells which occurs to generate the formation of teeth tissue. Author: Wanida Ono, et al.

• Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology: TGF-β Family Signaling in Mesenchymal differentiation.  This paper summarizes the findings of cell culture studies, animal models, and interactions with other signaling pathways and highlights how growth factor signaling activities mediated by TGF-beta BMP family members can accelerate human disease by affecting the development of bone, muscle and fat stem cells. Author: Yuji Mishina, et al.

• Journal of Bone and Mineral Research: Tsc1 Regulates the Balance Between Osteoblast and Adipocyte Differentiation Through Autophagy/Notch1/β-Catenin Cascade. This paper explores the molecular mechanisms of why osteoporosis often decreases bone mass and increases marrow fat.  Results indicate that a gene termed Tsc1 controls the balance between bone-forming cells and fat cell differentiation. Author: Fei Liu, et al.

• Biomacromolecules: Decoupling the Functional Roles of Cationic and Hydrophobic Groups in the Antimicrobial and Hemolytic Activities of Methacrylate Random Copolymers. This paper documents a study of antimicrobial activity of synthetic copolymers against the bacteria E. coli, S. aureus, and S. mutans.  Results indicate there are ways to design these copolymers to increase the strengths of their inherent antimicrobial properties toward the discovery and development of new antibiotics. Author: Kenichi Kuroda, et al.

• Advanced Healthcare Materials: Micropatterned Scaffolds with Immobilized Growth Factor Genes Regenerate Bone and Periodontal Ligament-Like Tissues. This paper shows how the use of 3D-printing and micropatterning of specific polymer materials can be used to promote guidance of ligaments to improve the bone and ligament support around teeth.  This technology has potential in the enhanced treatment of periodontal diseases. Author: Will Giannobile, et al.

• Journal of Dental Research: Brain Functional Changes before, during, and after Clinical Pain.  Using an emerging brain imaging technique called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), this paper documents an investigation of traumatic pain experience in a clinical setting.  The findings provide a better understanding of the ongoing impact of affective and sensory experience in the brain before, during and after clinical dental pain.  Author: Alex DaSilva, et al.

• Journal of Dental Research: Perineural Invasion in Head and Neck Cancer.  This paper discusses perineural invasion, a mechanism of tumor dissemination that is highly relevant for cancer due to the association with poor survival. Although perineural invasion is a common finding in head and neck cancer, little is known about its molecular mechanisms. This comprehensive review summarizes not only the clinical studies, but also the findings on nerve-tumor interactions in squamous cell carcinoma, the most prevalent type of head and neck cancer.  Author: Nisha D’Silva, et al.

The school’s annual Research Day on Feb. 20 includes research presentations, an exhibitor forum and an awards ceremony. This year’s keynote address, by Dr. Jeff Karp of Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., is at 1 p.m. in Kellogg Auditorium at the dental school.  More information is available on the Research Day web page.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu.  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at dentistry.communications@umich.edu, or (734) 615-1971.