The University of Buffalo (UB) will establish a research center focused on the human microbiome, emphasizing the relationship between the oral microbiome and the rest of the body. It will be led by Robert J. Genco, DDS, PhD, State University of New York Distinguished Professor in the Department of Oral Biology at the School of Dental Medicine.
“Under Dr. Genco’s leadership, UB’s new Center for Microbiome Research clearly leverages the rich resources our investigators have already developed here in the School of Dental Medicine and throughout the entire university in order to explore the microbiome and its extraordinary implications for human health and disease,” said Joseph J. Zamobon, DDS, PhD, interim dean.
Genco was chair of the department of oral biology for 25 years and is currently the director of the Periodontal Disease Clinical Research Center. He and his colleagues were among the first researchers to report a connection between gum disease and heart disease and stroke. He led studies connecting periodontitis to diabetes and obesity as well.
Also, the new center will give researchers access to thousands of samples of periodontal disease and extensive health information from 4,000 postmenopausal women who participated in the Buffalo OsteoPerio study and from 1,600 subjects in the Buffalo Myocardial Infarction Periodontal Study. New technologies are making these microbiome studies more feasible and less expensive, too.
“Previously, if you wanted to study bacteria in the mouth, you had to grow them in culture. But roughly half the oral bacteria cannot be cultured,” said Genco. “Now, powerful methods like nucleic acid sequencing techniques allow us to identify and determine the relative abundance of most, if not all, of the organisms at that and other sites in nature.”
The researchers also will explore why diabetics are at higher risk for periodontal disease—whether their oral and intestinal microbiomes are different and if that should signal a different approach to managing their care. Additionally, they will investigate the role of the placental and fetal microbiome in the health and disease of the fetus.
“We’re interested in the periodontal status of pregnant women who have gestational diabetes and how what we know about the microbiome might help develop new treatments for them,” Genco said.
“The establishment of the Center for Microbiome Research at UB provides the university with the ability to pursue so many opportunities in this exciting field, which has such deep roots at UB,” said Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Clinical studies will be conducted at the School of Dental Medicine’s Periodontal Research Center and at the Center for Preventive Medicine in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions and the Clinical and Translational Research Center. Laboratory studies will be performed at the School of Dental Medicine and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
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