Three GSDM Researchers Awarded CTSI Pilot Grants

Research in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology
Research in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology

GSDM researchers Drs. Srinivas Ayilavarapu, Manish Bais, and Brenda Heaton have been awarded $20,000 each in CTSI pilot funding. The pilot grant competition, led by the Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and financially supported by  the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, funds innovative translational research intended to obtain preliminary data to apply for federal funding. A number of outstanding proposals were submitted and were reviewed by a panel of faculty members. The researchers will use the $20,000 award to work on their pilot projects.

Dr. Srinivas Ayilavarapu, Assistant Professor in the Department of General Dentistry, received funding for his project, “B cells promote chronic periodontitis in type 2 diabetes.” This project is a collaborative effort with Dr. Barbara Nikolajczyk, Associate Professor of Microbiology at BU School of Medicine, to explore the activation of immune cells in obese diabetics with periodontal disease. The project will involve the extraction of gingival tissue from enrolled research subjects, followed by the isolation of cells for analysis. The aim of this project is to identify the molecular mechanisms that can lead to periodontal disease and to identify potential therapeutic targets. Dr. Ayilavarapu believes that this grant will help to generate important preliminary data for larger federally-funded projects.

Dr. Manish Bais, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, received funding for his project, “Patient-derived tumors orthotopic oral cancer mouse model.” The goal of this study is to establish a novel orthotopic oral cancer nude mouse model using patient-derived tumor cells and to determine if these pre-clinical studies can provide insights about predictors of tumor growth and metastasis. This project is developed from Dr. Bias’ participation in GSDM’s Oral Cancer Research Initiative. Dr. Bais is very excited about the CTSI funding and the significant impact this project may have on our understanding of oral cancer etiology and progression.

“This study will establish a new oral cancer mouse model, determine personalized differences in oral cancers, and provide an innovative approach for future mechanistic and translational studies, which could repeat clinical oral cancer progression in mouse models,” said Dr. Bais about his project.

Dr. Brenda Heaton, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy & Health Services Research, received funding for her project “Preparations for studies of oral health and illness in black women: validation of self-reported oral health measures in the Black Women’s Health Study.” This pilot grant will support a new collaboration between GSDM and the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University. The funds will be used to assess the feasibility of validating oral health measures in the subject population of the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS) who reside within the greater Boston area. The BWHS is an ongoing longitudinal study of 59,000 U.S. black women since 1995. The project will administer a series of self-reported oral health measures to willing participants. Participants will then travel to the GSDM Center for Clinical Research where they will receive clinical oral exams. This new collaboration will help to facilitate the future study of oral health outcomes among a national population with demonstrated health disparities.

“I would like to extend my congratulations to the recipients of CTSI pilot funding,” said Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter. “The success of our faculty strongly reflects the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine’s commitment to research excellence.” He added, “While only three projects could be selected, all submissions from GSDM were outstanding and compared favorably with other Schools on the Medical Campus.”