Periodontics-DScD Resident a Henry M. Thornton/SCADA Fellowship Recipient


Dr. Kang Ko (D’15, GD’18)

Philadelphia — Dr. Kang Ko (D’15, GD’18), a resident and Doctor of Science in Dentistry (DScD) candidate in Penn Dental Medicine’s periodontics postdoctoral program, has been selected to receive a 2016 Henry M. Thornton/SCADA Fellowship, presented by the Student Clinician Research Program of the American Dental Association (SCADA). The fellowships provide financial support to SCADA Associates in postgraduate study. Dr. Ko became a SCADA Associate in 2013 when he represented Penn Dental Medicine in the American Dental Association (ADA)/DENTSPLY Student Clinician Research Program.

Dr. Ko, who earned his DMD from Penn Dental Medicine in 2015, recently completed his first year in the Periodontics-DScD program, spending time in the clinic as well as continuing his research within the lab of Dr. Dana Graves, Professor and Interim Chair of Periodontics. Penn Dental Medicine’s research intensive DScD program is designed to prepare graduates for a career in academic dentistry. “Kang’s research within the DScD program is laying the groundwork for his pathway to academics,” notes Dr. Graves.

With a strong interest in pursuing a teaching and research career within dental medicine from the time he entered dental school, Dr. Ko has been actively involved in research over the past five years, building on a project within Dr. Graves’ lab that is looking at the role of diabetes-mediated chronic inflammation on mesenchymal stem cells. “Understanding how these cells behave under pathogenic conditions is important, as they are essential for new bone formation,” says Dr. Ko.

As a DMD student, he began working on the project as part of the School’s Summer Research Program and then as a Research Honors student, and now, he is continuing to build on the study through the Periodontics-DScD program. Recalling how his study has progressed over the years, Dr. Ko says:

“I initially presented preliminary data showing that diabetes decreased the number of mesenchymal stem cells and the amount of bone formation during fracture healing, and that this phenomenon was due to prolonged inflammatory condition.” Dr. Ko recently published this work with Dr. Graves (Ko, et al, Diabetologia, 2015).

“We later demonstrated the mechanism by which diabetes-mediated chronic inflammation promoted mesenchymal stem cell death and inhibited proliferation through a transcription factor called FOXO1. And presently, I hope to further elaborate the mechanism by which diabetes interferes with MSC [mesenchymal stem cell] function and how this in turn may worsen the healing environment in diabetes. It would be interesting to see if the same holds true for the periodontal disease model.”

The 2016 Henry M. Thornton/SCADA Fellowship awards will be presented at the ADA Annual Session in Denver in October 2016.