Using Genetic Testing To Assess The Risk For Gum Disease

By: Zeta Dental

Genetic testing (also called DNA-based tests) is among the newest and most sophisticated of techniques used to test for genetic disorders which involves direct examination of the DNA molecule itself. Other genetic tests include biochemical tests for such gene products as enzymes and other proteins and for microscopic examination of stained or fluorescent chromosomes. Genetic tests are used for several reasons, including:

carrier screening, which involves identifying unaffected individuals who carry one copy of a gene for a disease that requires two copies for the disease to be expressed
preimplantation genetic diagnosis (see the side bar, Screening Embryos for Disease)
prenatal diagnostic testing
newborn screening
Genealogical DNA test (for genetic genealogy purposes)
presymptomatic testing for predicting adult-onset disorders such as Huntington's disease
presymptomatic testing for estimating the risk of developing adult-onset cancers and Alzheimer's disease
confirmational diagnosis of a symptomatic individual
forensic/identity testing

University of Michigan School of Dentistry has signed an agreement with Interleukin Genetics Inc. to conduct what may be the largest clinical study to date using genetic testing to assess the risk for gum disease.

William Giannobile, professor at U-M dentistry and director of the Michigan Center for Oral Health Research at the School of Dentistry, will lead the study for U-M.

"It's an exciting study because it's a way to use genetic testing to personalize a dental treatment plan and the frequency of dental care visits of patients as it relates to oral care," said Giannobile. "It's a way to customize patient care."

"One of the goals of personalized health care is to detect disease earlier and prevent it more effectively," said Kenneth Kornman, president and chief scientific officer of Waltham, Mass. based-Interleukin. The study will use Interleukin's PST test as one part of a periodontitis risk assessment, said Kornman, who is also an alumnus of the U-M Dental School. Research has shown that genetics plays a large role in gum disease, and research also suggests that severe gum disease is a risk factor for other chronic disease complications such as heart disease or low birth weight.

U-M scientists will examine 15 years of patient clinical outcome data provided by a Michigan-based insurance company. Scientists will then recruit at least 4,000 of those patients and get their genetic information using the PST, Giannobile said.

They will combine this genetic information with two other common risk factors, smoking and diabetes, then measure tooth survival rates to see how those results lined up with the treatment plans people received over the 15 years. Some patients may have needed more dental visits, some may have required less, Giannobile said.

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