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News / August 16, 2010

Genetic test may help to predict gum disease

by Guy Hiscott

The University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry is to conduct what may be the largest clinical study to date using genetic testing to assess the risk for gum disease.

William Giannobile, director of the Michigan Center for Oral Health Research at the School of Dentistry, will lead the study.

He said: ‘It’s an exciting study because it’s a way to use genetic testing to personalise a dental treatment plan and the frequency of dental care visits of patients as it relates to oral care.’

The School of Dentistry will work in conjunction with Interleukin Genetics Inc, using the company’s PST test as one part of a periodontitis risk assessment.

Kenneth Kornman, president and chief scientific officer of Interleukin, said: ‘One of the goals of personalised healthcare is to detect disease earlier and prevent it more effectively.’

University of Michigan 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.

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.

The PST genetic test works by identifying genetic variations that are predictive of severe gum disease and tooth loss in some patients. The test may be used on all ethnic populations and must only be given once in a lifetime to identify at-risk patients.

Specifically, the test identifies genetic variants that regulate a protein that, when over-expressed, is thought to be associated with destruction of soft tissue attachment and bone and increased severity of gum disease in certain patients.

The year-long study begins this autumn.