Grants and Philanthropy
NIH Awards NYUCD $1.8 Million to Identify Risk
for Severe Early Childhood Caries

Front row, from left: Dr. Stuart Brown, Dr. Yihong Li, Dr. Deepak Saxeena. Middle row, from left: Dr. Hareeti Gill, Ms. Jin Mei Song, Dr. Robert Norman, Dr. Page Caufield. Back row, from left: Dr. Charles Larsen, Dr. Haijing Giu, Dr. Ran Yang, Dr. Jane Carlton, Dr. Rashmi Shrestha.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) has awarded an NYUCD research team a five-year, $1.83 million grant to conduct research to help identify those at risk for severe early childhood caries, a disease that can destroy most of a child’s teeth by age six.

The grant enables the team, led by Dr. Page W. Caufield, Professor of Cariology & Comprehensive Care, to create a genetic profile of Streptoccocus mutans, the fast-acting, potent bacterium that causes the condition, which disproportionately affects children in underserved socioeconomic groups.

“Through profiling we will uncover genetic differences between virulent, disease-causing S. mutans strains and those strains found in children who are caries-free,” said Dr. Caufield.

An earlier phase of the research, also funded by NIDCR, identified S. mutans gene sequences common to a group of 50 medically underserved New York City Hispanic schoolchildren with severe early childhood caries. With the help of the new grant, the team will assess whether those gene sequences can reliably predict the disease in a group of 300 children from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. This finding is expected to propel the development of a diagnostic test that dentists will be able to administer chairside to identify those at risk, so that preventive measures, such as sealing a child’s teeth shortly after they emerge, can be taken.

Dr. Caufield’s coinvestigators include Dr. Yihong Li, Associate Professor of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology; Dr. Deepak Saxena, Assistant Professor of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology; and Dr. Robert G. Norman, Research Associate Professor of Epidemiology & Health Promotion, all of the NYU College of Dentistry; and Dr. Jane Carlton, Associate Professor of Medical Parasitology, and Dr. Stuart Brown, Associate Professor of Cell Biology, of the NYU School of Medicine. The research team also includes Dr. Charles D. Larsen, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Rashmi Shrestha, a second-year student in the MS Program in Clinical Research; Dr. Hareeti Gill, Class of 2008; and Ms. Jin Mei Song, a research assistant in Cariology & Comprehensive Care; all of the NYU College of Dentistry; Dr. Haijing Giu, a PhD candidate from Sun Yat-Sen University School of Stomatology; and Dr. Ran Yang, a PhD candidate from Sichuan University West China College of Stomatology.