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Genetic Testing to Help Predict Gum Disease

The University of Michigan (U-M) School of Dentistry has signed an agreement with In­terleukin Genetics (located in Waltham, Mass), to conduct what may be the largest clinical study to date using genetic testing to assess the risk for gum disease. Genetic testing may provide a way to customize patient care, detect disease earlier, and prevent it more effectively. The study will use Interleukin Genetics’ Perio­dontitis Susceptibility Test (PST) as one part of a periodontitis risk assessment. Re­search has shown that genetics plays a large role in gum disease, and research also suggests that severe gum disease is a risk factor for other chronic disease complications such as heart disease or low-birthweight.
     U-M scientists will examine 15 years of patient clinical outcome data provided by an insurance com­pany based in Michigan. Scientists will then recruit at least 4,000 of those pa­tients and obtain their ge­netic information using the PST. They will combine this genetic information with 2 other common risk factors, smoking and diabetes, then measure tooth survival rates to see how those results lined up with the treatment plans people received during the 15 years. Some patients may have needed more dental visits, some may have required less. The PST works by identifying genetic variations that are predictive of severe gum disease and tooth loss in some pa­tients. The test may be used on all ethnic populations and must only be given once in a lifetime to identify at-risk pa­tients. Specif­ically, the test iden­tifies genetic variants that regulate a protein, that when overexpres­sed, is thought to be associated with destruction of soft-tissue at­tachment and bone and in­creased severity of gum disease in certain pa­tients. The PST can be used in dental of­fices and is available in all states. The company hopes the study results establish reimbursement coverage for the test. The insurance company would not have ac­cess to any genetic in­formation. The in­forma­tion would allow the dentist to make a more in­formed treatment protocol. The year-long study is set to begin in the fall of 2010.
(Source: U-M School of Den­tistry news release, August 12, 2010)

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