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Dentistry is just the beginning

The mission of the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine is to provide outstanding programs in oral health education, patient care, research and scholarship, and service that are of value to our constituents. We accomplish this in an environment that fosters collegiality and professionalism that enables a diverse group of students to become competent practitioners of dentistry and contribute to the health and well-being of individuals and populations.

Researchers to Test Body’s Natural Antibiotic as Possible Tool for Detecting Oral Cancers

Dr. Aaron WeinbergCWRU School of Dental Medicine and the Department of Otolaryngology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center will collaborate on a pilot study to examine whether an abundance of naturally occurring antibacterial proteins in the mouth can predict the development of oral cancers. The researchers hope to find a way to diagnose oral cancers in the earliest, more treatable stages, and to eventually halt cancer growth once diagnosed.

The researchers will investigate how high levels of human beta-defensin-3 (hBD-3) in saliva and pre-cancerous tissues can be used to detect oral cancers faster and less invasively than traditional methods, said Aaron Weinberg, Associate Dean and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at the School of Dental Medicine. They have found elevated levels of this protein in precancerous lesions and some oral cancers, which may provide early identification of these frequently asymptomatic cancers.

The hBD-3 peptide, which is found in the epithelial lining of the mouth, acts as a natural antibiotic in the body’s immune system. HBD-3 prevents the estimated 700 species of bacteria as well as viruses and fungi that live in the mouth from invading the body and causing disease.

The researchers will recruit 60 participants seeking treatment at UH Case Medical Center for possible oral cancers. They are also interested in patients with human papilloma virus (HPV), as this virus is increasingly correlated with increased incidence of head and neck cancer.

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University Names New School of Dental Medicine Dean

Kenneth B. ChancePresident Barbara R. Snyder has announced that a 1979 alumnus of the School of Dental Medicine will become its next dean July 1. Kenneth B. Chance, Sr., a professor and chief of endodontics at the University of Kentucky, will succeed longtime dental school leader Jerry Goldberg this summer after a comprehensive national search. A member of Case Western Reserve’s Board of Trustees since 2005, he will resign that seat later this month. “I am excited and honored by the opportunity to return to this campus at a pivotal time for the school and for health care nationally,” Chance said. “Jerry’s tenure has been transformative, and I look forward to building on his legacy and accelerating our momentum.”

Chance earned his undergraduate degree at Fordham University. After earning his DDS at Case Western Reserve, he completed a general practice residency at Jamaica Hospital in Jamaica, N.Y., followed by an endodontic postgraduate residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey (UMDNJ, now part of Rutgers University). In 1997, Chance became dean of the School of Dentistry at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN. From there, Chance went to the University of Kentucky, where he won awards for teaching and also advised the school’s chapter of the Student National Dental Association. He has been active in faculty development and interprofessional education initiatives at Kentucky after earlier leading extensive efforts at UMDNJ to engage minority students in the pursuit of dentistry. Chance has received multiple honors from Case Western Reserve’s dental school, including the Paul P. Sherwood Award for Excellence in Endodontics in 1979, Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2004, Appreciation and Recognition of Commitment in 2011, and Discovering the Future of Dental Medicine Award in 2012.

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Discovery Allows Researchers to Study How Immune Cells Ward Off Oral Diseases

Dr. Pushpa PandiyanCase Western Reserve University dental researchers found a less invasive way to extract single rare immune cells from the mouth to study how the mouth’s natural defenses ward off infection and inflammation. By isolating some specialized immune cells (white blood cells known as “leukocytes”) to study how they fight diseases in the mouth or reject foreign tissues, such as in failed organ transplants, researchers hope to learn more about treating and preventing such health issues as oral cancers, cardiovascular disease, AIDS and other infectious diseases.

Until now, immune cells removed from the mouth couldn’t be grown or isolated with enough viability to study their activities, Pushpa Pandiyan, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at the dental school, explained. The new method, developed by Pandiyan, the study’s lead author, is described in Biological Procedures article,“Isolation of T cells from mouse oral tissues” and reportedly allows more than 94 percent of the isolated cells to live long enough to study. Pandiyan received an early career travel award from the American Association of Immunologists to present her findings at the organization’s annual meeting May 2-7 in Pittsburgh. Natarajan Bhaskaran, Yifan Zhang and Aaron Weinberg, also from the Department of Biological Sciences, contributed to the study.

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Bruce Latimer Appears on PBS Series ”Your Inner Fish”

Dr. Bruce LatimerBruce Latimer, visiting professor in the School of Dental Medicine, has been featured in an episode of the PBS/WVIZ program, “Your Inner Fish” on PBS/WVIZ. Latimer will appear in a segment of the third show, titled “Your Inner Monkey,” in which he will discuss the consequences of bipedalism. Latimer is the founding director of CWRU’s Center for Human Origins and is a founding fellow of CWRU’s Institute for the Science of Origins. He previously was executive director of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. His research involves the comparative anatomy and biomechanics of primates, particularly the origin of humans’ ability to walk upright, and has been published in Nature, Science and other influential journals. He has been involved with many prominent paleoanthropology projects, from analyzing the Australopithecus afarensis fossil known as “Lucy” to describing a new species of early hominid, Ardipithecus ramidus. He is currently codirecting excavations at the recently discovered Manot Cave in Israel.

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Fall 2014 Magazine

In this issue:

  • New Dean Kenneth Chance, DDS '79
  • Researchers Link Byproducts of Gum Disease with Oral Cancer Growth
  • Dr. Occhionero Celebrates 50 Years at the School of Dental Medicine
  • And much more!
Download the PDF here

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More magazines and departmental newsletters are available in the archive.