Bacteria that causes gum disease packs a one-two punch to the jaw

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    The newly discovered bacterium that causes gum disease delivers a
    one-two punch by also triggering normally protective proteins in the mouth
    to actually destroy more bone, a University of Michigan study found.

    Scientists and oral health care providers have known for decades that
    bacteria are responsible for periodontitis, or gum disease. Until now,
    however, they hadn’t identified the bacterium.

    “Identifying the mechanism that is responsible for periodontitis is a major
    discovery,” said Yizu Jiao, a postdoctoral fellow at the U-M Health System,
    and lead author of the study appearing in the recent issue of the journal
    Cell Host and Microbe.

    Jiao and Noahiro Inohara, research associate professor at the U-M Health
    System, worked with William Giannobile, professor of dentistry, and Julie
    Marchesan, formerly of Giannobile’s lab.

    The study yielded yet another significant finding: the bacterium that causes
    gum disease, called NI1060, also triggers a normally protective protein in
    the oral cavity, called Nod1, to turn traitorous and actually trigger
    bone-destroying cells. Under normal circumstances, Nod1 fights harmful
    bacterium in the body.

    “Nod1 is a part of our protective mechanisms against bacterial infection. It
    helps us to fight infection by recruiting neutrophils, blood cells that act
    as bacterial killers,” Inohara said. “It also removes harmful bacteria
    during infection. However, in the case of periodontitis, accumulation of
    NI1060 stimulates Nod1 to trigger neutrophils and osteoclasts, which are
    cells that destroy bone in the oral cavity.”

    Giannobile, who also chairs the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine
    at the U-M School of Dentistry, said understanding what causes gum disease
    at the molecular level could help develop personalized therapy for dental
    patients.

    “The findings from this study underscore the connection between beneficial
    and harmful bacteria that normally reside in the oral cavity, how a harmful
    bacterium causes the disease, and how an at-risk patient might respond to
    such bacteria,” Giannobile said.

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