Genes that control nervous system development play a role in gum disease

March 5, 2013, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine

(Medical Xpress)—By simultaneously investigating millions of gene variants in more than 5,000 individuals, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reveal that genes that are responsible for nervous system development and immune function also play a role in an insidious gum disease known as chronic periodontitis.

The work, led by Kimon Divaris, a research assistant professor at UNC School of Dentistry, is the first genome-wide association study of the disease, offering an unparalleled breadth of insight into its genetics and how it is affected by environmental factors such as smoking.

"Periodontitis is a serious infection and inflammation of the gums that can progressively destroy the bone and tissues that support your teeth," said Divaris, whose work appears in the March 4 issue of . "Now we not only confirm that this is a heritable disease, which occurs in some form in nearly 50 percent of the population, but we also know which play a large role – and that gives us pretty interesting clues about how the disease works and what we can do to better treat and prevent it."

Divaris and his team, including senior author Stephen Offenbacher, chair of the department of periodontology, identified six genes and 12 pathways important to nervous system and that are involved in the disease. Variants of those genes could potentially increase or decrease people's risk of developing periodontitis, depending on how these genes interact with one another and their environment.

Based on their findings, Divaris and his team propose that genes in the immune system and the nervous system play off of one another to predispose people to chronic periodontitis, and that smoking interacts with these genes to increase that risk. One hypothesis is that when bacteria that live on and beneath our gums become harmful, the sends signals to elicit an to scale back the infection. That response leads to inflammation and possible destruction of the tooth-supporting gums and tissues.

"It has long been known that it isn't the bacteria, but our defense against the bacteria – the inflammation – that causes periodontal destruction and tooth loss," said Divaris. "But now we have a plausible network of genes – a circuit – that can, in part, explain how that inflammation comes to be."

Explore further: Research suggests a new strategy to prevent or halt periodontal disease

Related Stories

Research suggests a new strategy to prevent or halt periodontal disease

December 7, 2012
Periodontitis, a form of chronic gum disease that affects nearly half of the U.S. adult population, results when the bacterial community in the mouth becomes unbalanced, leading to inflammation and eventually bone loss. In ...

Researcher examines the relationship between gum disease and arthritis

October 16, 2012
Adelaide scientists have found that mice with gum disease develop worse arthritis.

Study hints at why gums suffer with age

April 17, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- New research from Queen Mary, University of London in collaboration with research groups in the USA sheds light on why gum disease can become more common with old age.

Injectable progesterone contraceptives may be associated with poor periodontal health

February 6, 2012
Injectable progesterone contraceptives may be associated with poor periodontal health, according to research in the Journal of Periodontology. The study found that women who are currently taking depotmedroxyprogesterone acetate ...

Almost half of U.S. adults have gum disease

September 13, 2012
(HealthDay)—Gum disease affects nearly half of American adults aged 30 and older, a new study finds.

Recommended for you

Peers' genes may help friends stay in school, new study finds

January 18, 2018
While there's scientific evidence to suggest that your genes have something to do with how far you'll go in school, new research by a team from Stanford and elsewhere says the DNA of your classmates also plays a role.

Two new breast cancer genes emerge from Lynch syndrome gene study

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian have identified two new breast cancer genes. Having one of the genes—MSH6 and PMS2—approximately doubles a woman's risk of developing breast ...

A centuries-old math equation used to solve a modern-day genetics challenge

January 18, 2018
Researchers developed a new mathematical tool to validate and improve methods used by medical professionals to interpret results from clinical genetic tests. The work was published this month in Genetics in Medicine.

Can mice really mirror humans when it comes to cancer?

January 18, 2018
A new Michigan State University study is helping to answer a pressing question among scientists of just how close mice are to people when it comes to researching cancer.

Epigenetics study helps focus search for autism risk factors

January 16, 2018
Scientists have long tried to pin down the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have expanded the search for genetic links from identifying genes toward epigenetics, the study of factors that control gene expression ...

Group recreates DNA of man who died in 1827 despite having no body to work with

January 16, 2018
An international team of researchers led by a group with deCODE Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company in Iceland, has partly recreated the DNA of a man who died in 1827, despite having no body to take tissue samples from. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.