Researchers Investigating Histatin’s Role in Periodontitis Diagnosis

Dentistry Today
Photo: Jenna Fraser


Photo: Jenna Fraser

The University of Saskatchewan College of Dentistry has received a $120,000 grant from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) to study a novel way of diagnosing periodontal disease activity, which continues to elude the dental profession, according to the school.

Dentists only are able to understand and detect periodontitis through a patient’s history, according to the College of Dentistry. They are unable to determine the current disease activity or risk for patients to develop periodontitis in the future.

“Periodontitis is one of the most common chronic diseases in Canada. It affects 21% of Canadians, and 43% of the First Nations population shows signs of the disease,” said Dr. Francisco Otero-Cagide, an associate professor at the school and periodontitis.

“Given the prevalence of this disease in the Canadian population, there is an urgent need to better understand periodontitis and develop a method to diagnose periodontitis based on the activity of the disease,” said Otero-Cagide.

“Histatin is a peptide found in saliva that has antifungal properties. Our preliminary data shows that the kinetic degradation of histatin differs between healthy groups and groups with periodontitis,” said Dr. Walter L. Siqueira, professor and associate dean of academics.

“We believe that by examining the degradation rate and mode of histatin in saliva, we may be able to create a novel approach to contribute to improved diagnostic accuracy of the disease,” said Siqueira.

The researchers believe that examining salivary enzymes, specifically histatin, is the first step in developing a diagnostic method for identifying active periodontitis.

“While the goal of our research is to develop a novel way to diagnose periodontitis, we also plan to provide clinicians with a way to provide better care to patients,” said Christine Downing, an instructor in the dental assisting program at the college and a registered dental assistant and dental hygienist.

“One of the most exciting parts of this research project is our new collaboration. For the first time in the college, we are seeing a partnership between clinicians and clinician-scientists,” said Siqueira.

“This partnership is allowing a high knowledge translation as we take our research discoveries and implement them directly in a clinical setting. It reaffirms our college’s commitment not only to providing a high standard of clinical teaching, but also our expanding research capacity,” Siqueria said.

In addition to Otero-Cagide, Siqueira, and Downing, the research team includes Dr. Lina Marin and Dr. Janet Hill. The project was entered in the 2020-2021 SHRF Grant Competition and ranked as the top project in addition to receiving the $120,000 funding

The research team has the support of various regulating bodies in the Saskatchewan dental community, including the College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Dental Assistants’ Association, the Saskatchewan Dental Hygienists Association, and the Saskatchewan Dental Therapists Association.

The researchers will make regular presentations to these bodies to update on the progress and findings of their research.

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