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Project for Promoting Leading-edge Research in Oral Science

Since multiple lines of evidence have shown that the deterioration of the oral environment caused by aging leads to pathogenesis of various systemic diseases such as dementia and cardiac diseases, oral science accumulates attention in Japan where aging population is rapidly increasing. Therefore, at Tokyo Medical and Dental University(TMDU), we have launched "Project for Promoting Leading-edge Research in Oral Science", which specializes in oral science in order to accomplish a healthy longevity society. This project consists of six research units, namely Craniofacial morphogenesis (Craniofacial morphology), Balance (Oral immunity and inflammation), Function (Oral Function), Intractable disease (Oral Cancer), Materials (Organism Regenerate/Reconstruct), and Society/Education. Through collaboration between these units, we aim to become the international top runner as a global platform of oral science .

Ongoing research projects

Craniofacial morphogenesis (Craniofacial morphology)

Craniofacial morphology is the most complicated structure of the body, housingthe brain, sense organs and feeding organs. It is also important to establish the identity in our living society. Birth defects in craniofacial structure are common among all congenital defects, however, their etiology has been still remained unknown. This research unit aims to clarify the cause of the anomalies by multidisciplinary advanced research approaches based on human resources, model organisms, cells, molecules and computer models. In addition, our unit challenges to develop methods of restoration and regeneration of craniofacial tissues with innovative biomaterials, which can be applicable to clinical practice. Based on the research outcomes, we will further new methods in diagnoses, treatments and prevention of the carniofacial defects, and thus contribute to dental, oral, craniofacial health of people.

Balance(Oral immunity and inflammation)

A number of epidemiological studies have indicated some link between oral and systemic diseases, however, there is no scientific report clarifying the connection by evidence-based studies. A chronic periodontitis has been thought to be an infectious disease induced by various pathogenic bacteria. Recent understanding of microbiome analyses including pathological and commensal bacteria suggests that periodontitis is a kind of immune disorder caused by dysbiosis of microbiome. The aim of this unit is to understand molecular network between oral and systemic diseases by focusing on periodontal dysbiosis and immunological changes in the oral and systemic sites and to develop therapeutic approach by manipulating the status of oral cavity.

Function(Oral Function)

Oral and craniofacial region, supports basic and essential functions to maintain the life, such as mastication and respiration. In addition, it bears functions important for our social life, including emotion and communication, playing a significant role in a manʼs life. In our study, we perform both the animal and clinical studies in humans using behavioral and neurophysiological methods. By those approaches we aim to develop the treatment strategies by clarifying the mechanisms of maintenance, failures and recoveries in functions that the region presides.

Intractable disease(Cancer)

In Japan, approximately 8,000 patients are diagnosed with oral cancer every year. Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it is difficult to be noticed by the patient, and because it has a high risk of metastasis to the lymph nodes of the neck. If oral cancer is discovered after it metastasizes, only half of diagnosed individuals will show 5-year-survival rate. At present, we do not know good tumor markers to detect oral cancer in its early stages, or molecular mechanisms how normal oral epithelial cells become malignant cancer cells to threaten the patient’s life. Therefore, we aim to elucidate the mechanisms which underlie the oral cancers development and progression using big data based on clinical samples obtained at TMDU. Furthermore, we will attempt to develop novel therapeutic strategies for oral cancers targeting various components of tumor microenvironment including cancer cells, tumor vasculature, and cancer associate fibroblasts. Our goal is to launch “Precision Medicine” for oral cancer by combining accurate diagnosis and personalized medicine consisting of surgical, chemical, radiation and immune therapies.

Materials (Organism Regeneration/Reconstruction)

Recent progress of safe, minimal invasion and esthetic dental treatments depends on the developments of dental materials, clinical skills and processing technology. State-of-art diagnostic technology enables the reliable diagnosis with minimal invasion for patient. In addition, regenerative medicine with tissue engineering shows the significant progress. This project aims to enhance the safe and minimal invasive treatments with development of diagnosis, measurement and processing technologies and dental materials with the collaboration of dental and engineering technologies.

Society/Education

With the arrival of a super-aged society, the role of dentistry in society has continued to evolve along with the emergence of health problems such as increases in periodontal disease and caries in the elderly due to their higher number of remaining teeth, as well as increases in oral hypofunction and aspiration pneumonia due to oral bacteria. It is important to understand these changes based on data, and we have entered an era requiring individualized dental care that focuses on the relationship between oral health and systemic disease. In particular, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine has become an extremely important initiative in dentistry. This unit aims to establish a basic platform from which the outcomes of five key research projects contribute to social development in the form of social medicine, human resource development, and international cooperation. To achieve this goal, we put forth the research aim entitled “Promotion of clinical epidemiological research” and “Promotion of educational research”. The former aim involves promoting a research utilizing hospital big data and clinical epidemiological data for people with medical access difficulties, and the latter involves studying an interprofessional education and promoting the development of a global dentistry education program for fostering human resources. These activities are fundamental to transferring the outcomes of our key research projects worldwide through our global network