Oral and Craniofacial Sciences Research

The Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences emphasizes multi-disciplinary approach to research and graduate education. We employ a dedicated staff and maintain state-of-the-art equipment to support our world-renowned faculty’s high level of research grant funding. In addition to research, our faculty are committed to supporting and developing graduate and post-graduate students in their educational and research efforts.

The Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences has three main focus areas for research — biomaterials/bioenginering, mineralized tissue biology and translational and clinical research. Faculty across these areas regularly collaborate in innovative ways to make the best use of the talents of individuals in the department.

Biomaterials/Bioengineering of Biological Tissues and Replacements

The Biomaterials Interdisciplinary program program includes collaborations with Midwest Research Institute and major industry such as 3M Company. Research from this program has produced an oxirane/polyol dental composite system which is available to the dental profession, FiltekLS, a low shrink posterior restorative manufactured by 3M ESPE. The improvement of advanced dental composite systems is greatly promoted when multi-disciplinary teams of scientists come together with their talent, laboratory resources, and equipment. Indeed, the purpose of this program is to provide the synergistic focus for the team of scientists to improve the low stress/low shrinkage adhesive silorane/TOSU based composite system and to understand more fully the underlining scientific principals governing the behavior of these materials.

A major thrust that has been added to the Biomaterials program is the Bioengineering component of Dr. Wang. A fundamental focus of the Bioengineering component is the examination for the micro- and nano- properties and structure of natural biomaterials such as bone, dentin and enamel. These studies which are clearly aligned with both the Biomaterials and Bone Biology programs are conducted within the MusculoSkeletal Structure/Property Characterization Core. A primary and fundamental goal of MusculoSkeletal Structure/Property Characterization Core is to provide a research environment that serves as a catalyst for collaborative investigations focused on applying the principles of biological systems to the hierarchal design, synthesis and application of biomaterials. In contrast to the usual protocol for development of materials, MusculoSkeletal Structure/Property Characterization Core researchers will use the knowledge and understanding derived from biological systems to drive the development of biomaterials that will have the qualities necessary for long-lived functional adaptation and interaction at the cellular, tissue and organ levels. The facilities with MusculoSkeletal Structure/Property Characterization Core provide scientists with state-of-the-art instrumentation for structure/property characterization of synthetic materials, biological tissues and the material/tissue interface. The resources available within MusculoSkeletal Structure/Property Characterization Core provide investigators the opportunity to explore the spectrum of opportunities represented by the integration of biology and engineering.

Mineralized Tissue Biology

The Bone Biology Program collaborates and integrates research goals with the Biomaterials and Engineering Components of the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences. This program is composed of bone biologists with specific and unique skills that create a comprehensive team for the study of mineralized tissues. Mark Johnson is the discoverer of the high bone mass gene, Lrp5. Dr. Jeff Gorski and Dr. Sarah Dallas are experts in bone matrix, its components and functions. Dr. Yasuyoshi Ueki is a molecular biologist examining the condition of Cherubism. The technology available for the study of mineralized tissues include genomics, proteomics, transgenic mice, dynamic imaging, bone analysis for properties such as density, hardness, strength, and histomorphometry for analysis of both bone and bone cells. 3D microscopy, applications of mechanical strain, both in vitro and in vivo, are established among other technologies. The goal of the program is to approach important issues in bone and tooth development, physiology, and disease from basic experiments to clinical research. In vitro approaches are first necessary to properly design transgenic approaches which are essential before clinical trials. All three components — basic, translational and clinical research — are essential for translating findings into prevention of disease and treatment in the clinic.

Translational and Clinical Research

Clinical research is one of three main research areas within the UMKC School of Dentistry.  The on-going clinical research efforts include those involved with temporomandibular disorders, salivary disorders, HIV and TB diagnosis, and restorative materials.  A Clinical Research Center at the School of Dentistry provides facilities to carry out contracted research supported by commercial firms as well as clinical research directed by individual faculty.

Our definition of clinical research is the same as that used by the National Institutes of Health:

  •  Patient-oriented research. Research conducted with human subjects (or on material of human origin such as tissues, specimens and cognitive phenomena) for which an investigator or colleague directly interacts with human subjects. Patient-oriented research includes: mechanisms of human disease, therapeutic interventions, clinical trials and development of new technologies.
  • Epidemiologic and behavioral studies
  • Outcomes research and health services research.
Center of Excellence in the Study of Dental and Musculoskeletal Tissue

The center is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary group that includes investigators from the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Computing and Engineering to focus on dental and musculoskeletal health. This UMKC Center of Excellence would integrate all investigators, whether basic or clinical, into a powerful translational team to prevent and treat diseases of mineralized tissue which includes teeth, cartilage, bone, and muscle. This goal aligns with the NIH roadmap initiative and focuses on mineralized tissue research with regards to obesity, cancer, osteoporosis, bone trauma, aging, metabolic bone disease, and diseases of oral tissue. Not only could findings be applied to biomaterials and composite research, medical devices, diagnostics, and clinical imaging, but can also be expanded to veterinary practice and diagnostics and treatment of animal dental and bone disease.

The major objective is to expand the ability to make new discoveries in the basic sciences, translate these findings into treatments, diagnoses, and therapies for mineralized tissue disease into the clinics, the community, and into the commercial sector. There are four major objectives for this center;

  • Develop a world-class basic science research program in mineralized tissues.
  • Create an outcomes science platform and clinical trial networks.
  • Provide education from graduate students and clinicians.
  • Establish an infrastructure to develop biotechnology and technology transfer.

The Partnerships have been forged between the School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Computer and Engineering, and the School of Dentistry.  This Center brings together and facilitates collaboration among faculty from several of UMKC’s life and health sciences schools and their Kansas City clinical partners.

UMKC’s health professions schools are located on Hospital Hill, adjacent to several of the region’s top clinical care facilities. Primary clinical partners include Truman Medical Center, Children’s Mercy Hospital, and Saint Luke’s Hospital.  Together, with the UMKC School of Medicine (SOM) and School of Nursing (SON), they offer a unique patient base that will provide rich information for research and clinical applications into diseases of mineralized tissue. Researchers in the School of Nursing provide experience in implementation of clinical findings to practice and assessment of the impact of changes in clinical practice on health outcomes. Bioengineers at the School of Computing and Engineering (SCE) have generated significant numbers of patents and devices in biometrics and the school is developing a program in biomedical engineering that integrates with the health professional schools.

The UMKC School of Dentistry (SOD) is the only dental school in either Missouri or Kansas. The Bone Biology and Biomaterials/Bioengineering research programs are recognized nationally and internationally and have researchers with long histories of competitive federal support for their work. Investigators in Bone Biology include molecular biologists, engineers, protein chemists, and geneticists with expertise in the area of the genomics, proteomics, and transgenics in the study of mineralized tissue. The Biomaterials program includes investigators with international reputations in biomaterials for the repair and regeneration of tissues.