Research News

Posted on: Monday, 11/20/2017

Better Osteoporosis Treatment on the Horizon 


A team of four UCLA scientists, three of whom are faculty members at UCLA Dentistry, sent 40 rodents to the International Space Station this past summer. The rodents received injections of an experimental drug, based on a bone-building protein called NELL-1. The drug shows promise to one day become a treatment for osteoporosis, which affects more than 200 million people worldwide.

The team is made up of Dr. Kang Ting, professor and chair of the Division of Growth and Development; Dr. Ben Wu, professor and chair of the Division of Advanced Prosthodontics; Dr. Jin Hee Kwak, an assistant professor of orthodontics; and Dr. Chia Soo, vice chair for research in the division of plastic and reconstructive Surgery at the UCLA Health System.

The project is being done in collaboration with NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, which manages the U.S. National Laboratory on the space station.

The drug could also potentially help those with bone damage or loss, a condition that afflicts people with traumatic bone injury, such as injured military service members, as well as astronauts who lose bone density while in space. Read full story.

Addressing Childhood Caries Through Intervention & Training

Ramos-GomezPrincipal investigator, Dr. Francisco Ramos-Gomez, professor and director of the pediatric dentistry advanced clinical training program, was awarded $3.5 million over three years to test various incentives to promote caregiver behaviors that prevent tooth decay in young children. The grant, in collaboration with investigators at the UC San Francisco School of Dentistry, came from the NIDCR. The trial, named the BEhavioral EConomics for Oral health iNnovation trial, will also evaluate the cost-effectiveness of such interventions and will enroll underserved, low-income Hispanic and Latino families in Early Head Start and affiliated preschool and day care sites in Los Angeles County. Other Principal Investigators are Dr. Stuart Gansky, UCSF professor and Lee Hysan Chair of oral epidemiology, and Dr. James Kahn, UCSF professor of global health economic sciences.

Dr. Ramos-Gomez received an additional grant from the Alliance for a Cavity Free Future, a not-for-profit organization that is supported by the Colgate-Palmolive Company. The grant will help fund Dr. Ramos-Gomez's Community Oral Health Workers (COHWs) project. The grant allows UCLA to partner with the Hope Street Family Center to train and mentor ten caregivers/parents who will then provide local oral health promotion to other caregivers of young children in their community (train-the-trainer model). 

Glimmer of Hope for Cleft Palate Patients

Christine Hong

Dr. Christine Hong, assistant professor in the Section of Orthodontics, and Dr. Dean Ho, professor in the Division of Oral Biology and Medicine, were the lead authors on a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about a therapy that combines estrogen — long known to play an essential role in bone health — with nanodiamonds. The therapy shows promise for young people with cleft palate. Their study indicates that a new treatment could alleviate a common complication of cleft palate — relapse from “maxillary expansion,” an intervention that reshapes the jaw to help those with cleft palate speak without impediment.

People with cleft palate may one day face fewer painful surgeries and spend less time undergoing uncomfortable orthodontic treatments thanks to this new therapy. Read full press release.

Root Canals on the Road to Improved Recovery

Dean HoDr. Dean Ho, professor in the Division of Oral Biology and Medicine and the co-director of the Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology, was the corresponding author of a study on the use of nanodiamonds to improve the likelihood of a full recovery for those who underwent root canals in a clinical trial. The paper was published Oct. 23 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team found that by combining nanodiamonds with gutta percha, a material used to fill disinfected root canals after the nerve and pulp were removed, improved the likelihood of a full recovery. The findings are a milestone for the use of nanodiamonds in humans.

Additional co-corresponding authors on the study include, Dr. Mo Kang, professor and chair of the Section of Endodontics and the Jack Weichman Professor of Endodontics and Dr. Eric Sung, professor and chair of the Section of Special Patient Care and the UCPLA Professor of Special Patient Care. Read full press release

Postdoc Scholar Recognized for Bone Work

Postdoctoral scholar, Yulong Zhang, PhD, was selected to receive the 2017 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) Young Investigator Award.  His work, “A New Bone Seeking Anabolic Protein, Bisphosphonate-Modified NELL-PEG, Can Effectively Reverse Osteoporosis by Systemic Administration", is the core bioengineering that enables our latest osteoporosis applications, including our NASA project. As an ASBMR Young Investigator Award recipient, Dr. Zhang will receive a $1,000 honorarium and a commemorating plaque. 

Research Grants Awarded to Dual-Degree Trainee

Sam Chang

Current T90 DDS/PhD candidate, Samantha Chiang, was awarded an F30 grant by NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The F30 grant program is available to students in dual degree programs and works to increase the pool of highly trained physician-scientists and other clinician-scientists in the biomedical research workforce.

Samantha completed her DDS training at UCLA in 2016 and is now a full-time researcher in Dr. David Wong’s laboratory where she is exploring the role of saliva non-coding RNA in wound healing. This novel and impactful topic was her discovery during her initial four years of research training in the laboratory.

Salivary Diagnostics Program Receives Research Funding 

Thank you to Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund for their $25,000 gift in support of Dr. David Wong's salivary diagnostics research. On October 6, Wendy Dio, president/co-founder, presented the check to Dr. Wong at the annual Bowl for Ronnie event at Pins Bowling Center. Thank you for helping advance the dental school’s cancer research forward.