Researchers Strengthen Link Between Heart and Periodontal Disease

in Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine
May 3rd, 2004

Contact: Stephen McGettrick, 617-638-8491 | smcgett@bu.edu

(Boston, Mass.)—Strengthening the link between periodontal and heart disease, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) found they can prevent mice from developing P. gingivalis-accelerated heart disease by immunizing the mice with a vaccine that protects against periodontal disease.

“Our new research shows if we immunize these mice with one of our newly-created vaccines that protect against periodontal disease, it will prevent the acceleration of atherosclerosis,” said principle investigator Caroline Genco, PhD, professor in the Department of Medicine, Section of Infectious Diseases and the Department of Microbiology at BUSM.

Led by Genco and her collaborator Frank Gibson, PhD, BUSM researchers have previously shown the bacteria involved in periodontal disease can promote the buildup of artery clogging plaque, which in turn can lead to atherosclerosis and heart attack. In this study, researchers put bacteria into the mouths of mice genetically prone to develop heart disease. The bacteria were shown to spread from the mouth to the aorta via the bloodstream where they caused accelerated atherosclerosis.

“This research further shows that only invasive P. gingivalis accelerates atherosclerosis in these mice that are prone to heart disease,” said Gibson, an instructor in the Department of Medicine, Section of Infectious Disease.

Chronic infectious diseases, including periodontal disease, are associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the periodontium that leads to erosion of the attachment apparatus and supporting bone for the teeth. It is one of the most common chronic infectious diseases of humans.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the results were published in the May 3, 2004 issue of Circulation.

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