Although the destructive effects of oral bacteria in producing dental caries (cavities), periodontal disease, and other infectious conditions are well known, the identities of many of the microbes responsible for these conditions, as well as their physical characteristics and ability to grow and sustain themselves, remain a mystery. In fact, only half of the bacteria residing in the human oral cavity have been identified.
Now, the NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD) and Sandia National Laboratories, a research and development center affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy, are partnering to develop a technology that will facilitate bacterial identification. Their study was recently funded with a three-year, $1.63 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) of the NIH. NYUCD, a subcontractor on the grant, received a $264,000 award to acquire saliva samples from NYUCD's patient population, prepare the samples, and analyze the findings. Dr. Deepak Saxena, an Assistant Professor of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology, is leading the NYUCD study in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Malamud, a Professor of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology and Director of NYUCD's HIV/AIDS Research Program.
The study's principal investigator, Dr. Anup Singh, Director of Biosynthesis Research at Sandia, uses a method dubbed "FISH n' CHIPs" for identifying genes because it combines fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), with a glass chip less than four centimeters wide to spot unknown microbes in saliva.
The researchers plan to locate cells from a dozen unknown oral bacterial species and establish a bank of cells that can be manipulated in subsequent sequencing studies designed to fully decode a microbe's genome.
"I anticipate that our 'FISH n' CHIPs' model will ultimately also be used to locate unknown bacteria in the gastrointestinal and nasal tracts and in other parts of the body," said Dr. Saxena. "This will help in the development of genetic tests to identify those at risk for a variety of infectious diseases."