Exploring the world of dental research at the IADR

Stem cell research

Dental Pulp Stem Cells (DPSCs) are multipotent type stem cells located in the pulp of our teeth. Since their discovery in 2005, recent research has shown their great potential for human therapeutic applications. For example, a 2015 study published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine found promising results in utilizing DPSCs in the regeneration and transplantation of corneal cells. However, in order to fully harness their regenerative therapies, improved cultivation techniques must be explored to increase their growth and proliferation following cryopreservation.

Prior research has established a link between the development of craniofacial anomalies and a lack of folic acid (FA) supplementation in utero, so my colleague and I chose to study the viability of DPSCs under exposure to varying human physiologic ranges of FA. After carefully designing a protocol to confirm that the desired metabolic pathways were truly being tested, analysis of our findings suggested that FA indeed plays a significant role in increasing the growth of DPSCs. With this information, we are one step closer to helping to develop a proper methodology for increasing the proliferation of DPSCs for their definitive regenerative capabilities. We’ve expanded our study of DPSCs here at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and are currently examining the biological mechanism of FA cell uptake. A concurrent study of oral cancer cells at UNLV demonstrated the involvement of caveolin and hRFC receptors in the intake of FA, and these very same receptors are being explored in DPSCs. Future study will focus on the enzymes methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) and thymidylate synthase (TS), both of which are involved in the production of thymidine, in hopes of confirming FA’s nutritional involvement in promoting growth and viability.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) General Session, held in Seoul, South Korea from June 22-25, 2016. There, I was able to present my research on dental pulp stem cells that a colleague and I had been working on for the past year. It was such a pleasure to present our findings at the IADR and meet the many other bright-minded, optimistic researchers in our field. Not only had I been given the opportunity to share this information, but I was also able to learn about future direction of studies in DPSCs as well as current findings from other colleagues.

Outside of being surrounded by cutting-edge research, one of the most enjoyable parts of attending an international research symposium was the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. From Egypt to India, Britain to our own United States, I was able to meet new friends from around the globe and bond with them over our shared love for this profession. During my poster presentation, a fellow dental student approached me to to discuss my research. As we continued to talk, we realized we were both from the same region in California and were familiar with similar comforts of our home communities. We instantly connected and were amazed to find that we even had mutual friends! It may have taken 5,975 miles to bring us together, but I have no doubt that connections like these only signal the beginning of long-lasting friendships.

Conferences like the IADR are important for bridging the many facets of research in our field. Sometimes, it may feel like you’re alone in an empty laboratory, scratching your head trying to think of the future steps and contingencies associated with your research protocol. However, I believe that attending such conferences can help you put all your hard work into perspective – highlighting its importance and place in the world of dental research.  

~ Kristi Agari, Las Vegas ’18, local chapter secretary

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About Kristi Agari

Kristi M. Agari is a third year dental student at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine. She currently serves on the Executive Board as Secretary of her ASDA chapter. Kristi is originally from Stockton, CA and attended the University of the Pacific for her undergraduate studies. She enjoys golfing, cartooning, and belting out all the current pop songs.

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