Philadelphia – Research conducted by two postdoctoral students at Penn Dental Medicine was recognized by the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) at its recent annual meeting, held in March in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Yuan Liu, a DScD candidate and pediatric dentistry resident, was one of two winners in the prestigious AADR Hatton Awards Competition (postdoctoral category), and Dongyeop Kim, a postdoctoral research fellow, was among the eight finalists in the AADR/CADR Joseph Lister Award for New Investigators.
Liu’s project was titled “pH microenvironment-triggered and biomimetic nanoparticles for cariogenic biofilm disruption.” She explains that current antimicrobial approaches have limited efficacy in killing bacteria embedded within cariogenic biofilm and their work is opening up the potential for new therapeutic approaches to breaking down this biofilm, and in turn, preventing dental caries.
“We have discovered an exciting and efficacious anti-biofilm approach using biocompatible nanoparticles,” she says. “They can locally activate hydrogen peroxide at acidic pH found in the cariogenic microenvironment to trigger bacterial death and break down biofilms to prevent dental caries in vivo.” Among the potential clinical applications, these nanoparticles could be used to potentiate the efficacy of existing peroxide-based products, including mouth rinses and toothpastes.
The AADR Hatton Awards Competition is designed for junior investigators who exhibit potential for a productive academic career in dental research. Nine finalists in three categories (junior, senior, and postdoctoral) are selected, this year from more than 200 applicants, with winners chosen through rigorous written and oral presentation evaluations, including a Q&A in front of an expert scientific panel. Liu is pursuing her postdoctoral studies at Penn Dental Medicine through support from the Colgate-Palmolive Pediatric Dentistry DScD Fellowship. As one of the AADR Hatton Competition winners, she will now compete in the IADR Unilever Hatton Competition at the IADR General Session & Exhibition in London this coming July.
Dongyeop Kim was recognized within the Joseph Lister Award competition for his project titled “Streptococcus mutans-derived exopolysaccharides enhance antifungal tolerance in cross-kingdom oral biofilms.” Kim explains that this study introduces a new therapeutic approach for polymicrobial oral biofilms, suggesting that the combination of an antifungal and bacterial EPS-targeting agent can help develop feasible clinical applications for treating bacterial-fungal oral infections.
The Joseph Lister Award competition was created to recognize young investigators in the American and Canadian Divisions of the IADR who are conducting original research in oral disease prevention or oral health promotion. Along with a first and second place, six runners-up prizes, of which Kim was one, are awarded. The award is managed by the AADR and supported by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.
Both Kim’s and Liu’s research projects were conducted in the lab of Dr. Michel Koo, Professor in Penn Dental Medicine’s Department of Orthodontics and Divisions of Pediatric Dentistry and Community Oral Health.
“We are extremely proud of Dr. Liu and Dr. Kim and their achievements. The AADR Hatton Award is the most challenging junior competition in dental research where the best postdocs in North America face-off, and now, Dr. Liu is on her way to compete globally at the IADR in London,” says Dr. Koo. “Dr. Kim also did a wonderful job at the Lister Award competition, where most of the other finalists were Assistant Professors. Both of them clearly showcase the research prowess of Penn Dental Medicine.”