Areas of Research Focus


  • Molecular and Cellular Biology of Oral Infectious Diseases. A major focus seeks to understand immune responses that contribute to periodontal disease progression and oral bone loss and to translate findings to clinical applications. Two areas of scientific interest have emerged. The first involves development of novel chemotherapeutic targets to treat periodontal diseases with emphasis on cell signaling mechanisms in controlling immune cytokine involvement in osteoimmunology and immune regulatory mechanisms in periodontal inflammation. The second addresses the contribution of systemic diseases, especially impacted by microbe-host interactions, to periodontal disease treatment efficacy and influence on current treatment regimens in genetically susceptible populations. MUSC investigators are developing small molecule inhibitors for topical intraoral application for management of periodontal diseases. (Faculty: Alexander Alekseyenko, Lauren Ball, Amy Bradshaw, Yan Huang, Amy Martin, Robin Muise-Helmericks, Chad Novince, Paula Traktman, Chentha Vasu, Pat Woster, Ozlem Yilmaz, Hong Yu; Caroline Westwater)
  • Oral pharyngeal cancer biology and cancer immunology. Oral and pharyngeal cancer is a research emphasis in CDM and Hollings Cancer Center since it has higher prevalence in SC. Major efforts include: (1) elucidation of mechanisms by which tumor cells evade the immune system, especially in head-and-neck cancers associated with viral infections, (2) identification and validation of unique approaches (e.g. CAR T cell therapy) that enhance anti-tumor cell immunity leading to increased tumor cell death, and (3) understanding the influence of oral inflammation and immune surveillance in the tumor microenvironment. MUSC faculty have developed unique lipids, complement-based approaches, peptide delivery methods, and si-RNA-based therapeutics all to enhance tumor specific cell death, and modify immune cells to increase tumor cell death. (Faculty: Lauren Ball, Terry Day, Phil Howe, Andrew Jakymiw, Amy Martin, Shikhar Mehrotra, David Neskey, Besim Ogretmen, Visu Palanisamy, Jessica Thaxton, Pat Woster, Hong Yu)
  • Bioengineering and biomechanics of the oral and craniofacial complex. The Clemson/MUSC Bioengineering Program enables bioengineering faculty to conduct research on the MUSC campus. There is significant expertise and research ongoing in biomaterials and material property science which are critical for many aspects of dentistry. In addition, nanoparticle delivery systems for periodontal inflammation control have been developed for periodontal regeneration along with fundamental understanding of the mechanical complexities of the temporomandibular joint compared with other articular joints. Other efforts focus on dental stem cell regeneration of the dentinal component of the tooth and bioactive materials for wound healing. (Faculty: Jeremy Gilbert, Dieter Haemmerich, William Hill, Meenal Mehrotra, Ying Mei, Robin Muise-Helmericks, Hai Yao, Tong Ye, Michael Yost)
  • Craniofacial growth and development. Faculty in the COHR are engaged with oral and craniofacial facial growth and development in 3 primary areas: (1) addressing gene-environmental interactions and signaling pathways in craniofacial suture closure and the role of stem cells in this process; (2) Bone biology in general as well as addressing the role of the oral microbiome in craniofacial skeletal development; and (3) understanding the role of matrix proteins in bone biology and development of the periodontal ligament. (Faculty: Amy Bradshaw, William Hill, Phil Howe, Michael Kern, Amanda LaRue, Meenal Mehrotra, Chad Novince, Paula Traktman, Hai Yao, Hong Yu)