NYU Global Public Health Research Challenge Fund Grant Awarded to College of Dentistry's Dr. Dasanayake

NYU College of Dentistry Professor Dr. Ananda P. Dasanayake has been awarded a one-year NYU Global Public Health Research Challenge Fund grant to continue his study of how periodontal disease can contribute to gestational diabetes mellitus.

Dr. Dasanayake, a Professor of Epidemiology & Health Promotion, Director of the Graduate Programs in Clinical Research, and the Oral Health Concentration Leader for the NYU Global Master’s in Public Health Program, will collaborate with researchers at Khon Kaen Hospital and Khon Kaen University Teaching Hospital in northeast Thailand.

Dr. Dasanayake’s hypothesis is that molecules related to periodontal disease block insulin, the hormone that enables cells to absorb glucose, the body’s main source of energy. In gestational diabetes, the body cannot transport glucose to the cells during pregnancy.

“Although gestational diabetes usually disappears when pregnancy ends, nine out of ten women who have had gestational diabetes will later develop the most common form of diabetes, known as Type 2, and their babies will be at risk for developing it, too,” said Dr. Dasanayake, adding that Type 2 diabetes has already been linked to inflammation caused by periodontal disease.

Asian women are known to be at high risk for gestational diabetes mellitus. Thailand was chosen for the study because Thai women have low rates of smoking and alcohol use, thus enabling Dr. Dasanayake to eliminate these practices as possible risk factors for periodontal disease and gestational diabetes mellitus in his study. Each year, periodontists on the staff of the two Thai hospitals participating in the study treat 2,500 women for periodontal disease in the hospitals’ prenatal clinics. These highly experienced periodontists will help facilitate the study, which will focus on 100 women drawn from this population.

The women will be given a periodontal examination and tests to screen for gestational diabetes. Dr. Dasanayake hypothesizes that those women found to have the greatest amount of bleeding and inflammation in their gums as a result of periodontal disease will have the highest levels of glucose in their blood. Such a finding would bolster the results of a previous study completed in spring 2009, in Sri Lanka, where pregnant women with periodontal disease and low smoking and alcohol use rates were shown to be at increased risk for developing gestational diabetes. The results of that study were presented last March at the Fifth International Symposium on Diabetes and Pregnancy in Sorrento, Italy.

“If our hypothesis is borne out, it will be further evidence that pregnant women should see a dentist if they become pregnant, and even after becoming pregnant,” said Dr. Dasanayake. “Treating gum disease during pregnancy has been shown to be safe and effective in improving women’s oral health and minimizing potential risks.”

Dr. Dasanayake’s co-investigators on the Global Challenge Fund grant include Dr. Waranuch Pitiphat, Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Research; Dr. Nawarat Wara-Aswapati, Dean and Associate Professor of Periodontology; Dr. Waraporn Suwannarong, Assistant Professor of Periodontology; Dr. Doosadee Hormdee, Associate Professor of Periodontology; and Dr. Anyarat Chokwiriyachit, a graduate student in the Department of Periodontology, all at the Khon Kaen University Faculty of Dentistry. Additional co-investigators include Dr. Gunniga Sumanonta, a periodontist in the Dental Division of Khon Kaen Hospital; Dr. Witoon Prasertchareonsuk, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Khon Kaen University Faculty of Medicine; Ms. Joan Combellick, a student in the NYU Global Master’s in Public Health Program, and Ms. Nok Chhun, a junior research scientist in the NYU College of Dentistry’s Department of Epidemiology & Health Promotion.

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