Current Research Studies

Click on an area below to view study information.

Human and Clinical Research Studies

Clinical research happens throughout our college, potentially wherever a dental care provider and patient interact. Study volunteers are always needed and some projects may reimburse subjects for time and travel or defray the cost of dental care. Below are our current clinical projects, please contact study personnel for more details.

Biosignatures of Periodontitis: Effects of diabetes and methotrexate anti-inflammatory therapy
Principal Investigator: Craig Miller
Sponsor: Delta Dental Plan of Michigan, Inc.
This study, led by Dr. Craig Miller, Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagarajan and Dr. Dolph Dawson builds upon previous periodontal studies by specifically targeting Type 2 diabetes patients and questioning the microbial, inflammatory and genetic influences on participant’s oral mouth microenvironment.  The identification of biosignatures for periodontitis in Type2 diabetic patients could lead to the development of a diagnostic test for treatment of gum disease at an earlier stage leading to better management of oral disease in this at-risk population.  This work could lead to the development of an early diagnostic tool for dental practitioners at the public health level, as well as diagnostics that could be used to more effectively target the most at-risk and non-responsive patients. 

Is Periapical Infection Enabling Cardiovascular Inflammation?
Principal Investigator: Craig Miller (College of Dentistry), Co-Investigators: Susan Smyth (College of Medicine), Richard Kryscio (Biostatistics)
Sponsor: NIH/Center for the Biologic Basis of Oral/Systemic Disease (COBRE Award)  
This project leverages the high prevalence of periapical disease and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in our population, and will provide critical insight into systemic inflammation after elimination of targeted oral disease. The findings are expected to contribute to the growing body of evidence that demonstrates the importance of oral health for the maintenance of optimal cardiovascular health.

Localized Aggressive Periodontitus Susceptibility and Patterns of Disease Initiation in Families
Principal Investigator: Luciana Shaddox
Sponsor: NIH/Center for the Biologic Basis of Oral/Systemic Disease (COBRE Award)
The proposed study is both significant and novel as it is the first one to comprehensively evaluate the susceptibility of localized aggressive periodontitis (LAP) in families and the predictability of disease patterns through a model of genetic and epigenetic modifications associated with bacterial inflammatory responsiveness in individuals with LAP and their unaffected siblings. The overall goal of this proposal is to build an individual genetic-inflammatory profile that may be able to predict the development of LAP and a predictable response to treatment in an at-risk population.

My Choice Kentucky: Making Decisions in Dental Care
Principal Investigator: Laura Butler (Interdisciplinary Human Development), Co-Investigators: Marcia Rojas Ramirez (College of Dentistry), Jacqueline Kearnes (Interdisciplinary Human Development)
Sponsor: WITH Foundation
We propose to create materials that will enhance the dental care of people with IDD who use AAC. These materials will include a video(s) as well as a symbol set(s) that will improve communication and understanding for all parties- AAC users, their supporters and dental professional. Additionally, the materials will facilitate the use of SDM in dental care.

Quality and quantity of bone regeneration in maxillary sinus using Osteocel, radiographic and histomorphometric randomized controlled clinical study
Principal Investigator: Ahmad Kutkut
Sponsor: Implant Dentistry Research and Education Foundation
The purpose of this study is to histologically and radiographically evaluate the maxillary sinus bone volume and density, with reference to percentage of vital bone present, after 4 months of grafting with either Osteocel plus or a cortical-cancellous allograft.

Basic Science Research

Lab research generally involves experiments conducted in a laboratory where researchers look to explore and understand the interaction and relationship between various materials or biological matter and/or involve computational analyses. Projects typically do not involve oral health patients directly. Below are our current lab projects, please contact study personnel for more details. 

Chronic Orofacial Neuropathic Pain-Associated miRNAs and the Efficacy of Message Therapy
Collaborators: Robert Danaher, Craig Miller, Hideaki Nagaoka, Charles Carlson (College of Arts and Sciences), Esther Dupont-Versteegden (College of Health Sciences) and Timothy Butterfield (College of Health Sciences)
Sponsor: Igniting Research Collaborations Program, UK Vice President for Research Office
Test the hypothesis that chronic orofacial neuropathic pain is associated with altered miRNA expression within the central nervous system and whether massage therapy will attenuate orofacial neuropathic pain and modulate miRNA expression, potentially through the delivery of miRNAs in exosomes released from muscle. 

Dentin Biomodification to Prevent Resin-Dentin Bond Degradation
Principal Investigator:  Hiroko Nagaoka (College of Dentistry), Co-Investigators:  Hideaki Nagaoka and Howard Roberts (College of Dentistry)
Sponsor: NIH/Center for the Biologic Basis of Oral/Systemic Disease (COBRE Award)  
Data from this study will be used as preliminary data for a future project aimed at developing a better bonding material/or protocol to increase the durability of resin-dentin adhesive layer. PI of the prosed study will intend to apply for external findings. 

Developing and evaluating piezoelectric scaffold for alveolar bone regeneration 
Principal Investigator: Luciana Shaddox
Sponsor: NIH/Center for the Biologic Basis of Oral/Systemic Disease (COBRE Award)
We intend to develop a biodegradable electroactive scaffold of poly(L-lactic acid) with mechanical and electrical properties akin to bone.  This scaffold will help in regenerating the bone lost due to periodontal disease caused by systemic or local factors.  We will be exploring the potential of the piezoelectricity to promote osteogenesis of human mesenchymal stem cells.

Effect of Aging on Gingival Gamma-Delta T Cells  
Principal Investigator: Octavio Gonzalez (College of Dentistry), Co-Investigator: Marlene Starr (Medicine/Surgery)
Sponsor: Sponsor: NIH/Center for the Biologic Basis of Oral/Systemic Disease (COBRE Award)  
Although epidemiological data indicates that aging is a risk factor for periodontal disease, the cellular and molecular basis for this observation remains to be determined. The findings of this study will provide the basis for a publication and the generation of preliminary data for an R01 grant proposal focused on identifying the mechanisms involved in aging-related γδT cell gingival changes and their impact on oral inflammation, oral dysbiosis, and alveolar bone loss (i.e. periodontal disease).

Evaluation of the effect of Botulinum Toxin on Orofacial Neuropathic Pain:  A Preclinical Study
Principal Investigator: Hikeaki Nagaoka (College of Dentistry), Co-Investigators: Jeffrey Okeson and Isabel Moreno Hay (College of Dentistry)
Sponsor: NIH/Center for the Biologic Basis of Oral/Systemic Disease (COBRE Award)  
Primary objectives of this project will determine effects of BoNT/A administration on onset and maintenance of pain in a model of TNP, trigeminal inflammatory compression nerve (TIC) injury in mice (Aim 1) and to identify neuronal and glial signaling mechanisms of its analgesic effect in this model (Aim 2). Upon completion of these studies we will be positioned to provide insights into the pathophysiology of TNP and the analgesic effect of BoNT/A on TNP.

Identification of Genes Critical to the Development of Chronic Orofacial Neuropathic Pain
Principal Investigator: Robert Danaher
Sponsor: NIH/Center for the Biologic Basis of Oral/Systemic Disease (COBRE Award)
Chronic nerve injury pain occurs when a biological process becomes ‘locked’ in an improper pattern.  Identification of the genes involved in this process is critical for developing new drugs that target these biological anomalies. 

Mechanism and Treatment Response of Aggressive Periodontitis in Children
Principal Investigator: Luciana Shaddox
Sponsor: NIH/RO1
To expand on our discoveries and investigate inherited genetic contributions to regulation of inflammatory signaling involved in, and epigenetic regulation of this TLR-induced hyper-inflammatory response under the condition of LAP.

Phospholipase D Promotes Oral Cancer Tumorigenic Functions by regulating cellular bioenergetics
Principal Investigator: Ron Bruntz (College of Medicine)
Sponsor: NIH/Center for the Biologic Basis of Oral/Systemic Disease (COBRE Award)
HPV-negative squamous cell carcinomas of the oral cavity and oropharynx are associated with high morbidity and poor 5-year survival rates despite first-line treatment with surgery, radiation, and conventional chemotherapy. Targeted therapies are limited and show underwhelming response rates leaving patients with treatment options that often lead to morbidity and disfigurements that diminish patient quality of life. The knowledge derived from this project will facilitate development of novel therapeutic targets to improve prognosis and quality of life for these patients.

Health Services Research

This research seeks to identify and understand the oral health needs of Kentuckians. Funding for Health Services Research covers the costs of dental care providers and assisting staff needed to provide oral care treatment and preventative services to children in underserved areas and for some uninsured adults.

Countermeasure Activities to Support Empowerment of Youth (Casey) Health
Principal Investigator: Drs. Julie Plasencia (College of Agriculture, Food and Environment); Craig Miller (College of Dentistry); Audrey Darville (College of Nursing); Angela Grubbs (College of Nursing); and Charles Carlson (College of Arts and Sciences)
Sponsor: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
A diverse team of clinicians will develop and coordinate a program that empowers children, 8-12 years old, by communicating evidenced-based science, in an interactive format, to make healthy decisions. With the involvement of school officials, community members, education experts and local stakeholders, the team’s goal is to develop a freely available, 10-lesson curriculum that targets healthy decision-making, meets Kentucky Academic Standards and is used statewide.  The curriculum will cover five elements of health, including:  preventing illness/injuries and risky behaviors, emphasizing the importance of oral health, abstaining from all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), eating healthy/nutritious foods and emphasizing the importance of physical activity.

Eradicate Oral Cancer in Eastern Kentucky
Principal Investigator: Melvyn Yeoh
Sponsor: United Health Foundation
The grant was awarded to tackle the high prevalence of oral cancer in Harlan, Letcher and Pike counties in Eastern Kentucky, as well as address the lack of access to local health care providers who specialize in oral cancer treatment. The three-year grant allows UKCD to lead an integrated outreach and care program delivered to local residents through their local health departments. Will raise public awareness of the symptoms of oral cancer and its links to heavy alcohol and tobacco use, provide approximately 1,000 oral cancer screenings at local health departments, and help connect patients who need additional care to cancer specialists in Lexington. 

Kid Smile
Principal Investigator: Ted Raybould
Sponsor: KY Cabinet for Health and Family Services
Funds to purchase materials necessary for the KIDS Smile Program in Kentucky’s local health departments and the Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs (CCSHCN)

Mobile Dental Outreach
Principal Investigator: Ted Raybould
Sponsor: KY Cabinet for Health and Family Services
Funding to assist the College of Dentistry to provide dental services thru the Dental Public Health mobile van program to underserved populations of Kentucky.

Smiling Schools
Principal Investigator: Ted Raybould
Sponsor: KY Cabinet for Health and Family Services
Funding to purchase the fluoride varnish supplies to participating health departments and expenses incurred by the UK College of Dentistry to evaluate and perform activities.

Ryan White Dental Reimbursement Grant
Principal Investigator: Ted Raybould
Sponsor: Ryan White Foundation
Assistance provided to accredited dental education programs to defray some of the unreimbursed costs associated with providing oral health care to persons living with HIV/AIDS.


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