Biofilm Research Garners AADR Awards

Dentistry Today

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The American Association for Dental Research (AADR) recognized two Penn Dental Medicine postdoctoral students at its annual meeting last month in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. DScD candidate and pediatric dentistry resident Yuan Liu, DDS, MS, PhD, was a winner in the AADR Hatton Awards Competition. Postdoctoral research fellow Dongyeop Kim, PhD, was a finalist in the AADR/Canadian Association for Dental Research Joseph Lister Award for New Investigators.

Liu’s project was titled “pH microenvironment-triggered and biomimetic nanoparticles for cariogenic biofilm disruption.” According to Liu, current antimicrobial approaches have limited efficacy in killing bacteria embedded within cariogenic biofilm, and her work is opening up the potential for new therapeutic approaches to breaking down this biofilm and preventing dental caries. 

“We have discovered an exciting and efficacious anti-biofilm approach using biocompatible nanoparticles,” Liu said. “They can locally activate hydrogen peroxide at acidic pH found in the cariogenic microenvironment to trigger bacterial death and break down biofilms to prevent dental caries in vivo.” 

Among the potential clinical applications, Liu said, these nanoparticles could be used to potentiate the efficacy of existing peroxide-based products such as mouth rinses and toothpastes. As a Hatton Competition winner, she will next compete in the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) Unilever Hatton Competition at the IADR General Session & Exhibition in London this July. 

Kim’s project was titled “Streptococcus mutans-derived exopolysaccharides enhance antifungal tolerance in cross-kingdom oral biofilms.” It introduces a new therapeutic approach for polymicrobial oral biofilms, suggesting that the combination of an antifungal and bacterial exopolysaccharide-targeting agent can help develop feasible clinical applications for treating bacterial-fungal oral infections.

Kim’s and Liu’s projects both were conducted in the lab of Michael Koo, DDS, MS, PhD, professor in Penn Dental Medicine’s Department of Orthodontics and Divisions of Pediatric Dentistry and Community Oral Health. 

“The AADR Hatton Award is the most challenging junior competition in dental research where the best postdocs in North America face off, and now, Dr. Liu is on her way to compete globally at the IADR in London. Dr. Kim also did a wonderful job at the Lister Award competition, where most of the other finalists were assistant professors,” said Koo. “Both of them clearly showcase the research prowess of Penn Dental Medicine.”

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