As well as helping to improve the QOL of elderly people by restoring their chewing function, good oral health will contribute in a variety of ways to the achievement of a society in which people enjoy long and healthy lives, including sustaining cognitive skills, preventing obesity and lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, and maintaining homeostasis in host defense mechanisms. Furthermore, tissues in the oral cavity contain an abundance of stem cells, which are comparatively easy to collect, so attention is now focusing on the potential for using these to develop therapeutic applications targeting intractable autoimmune disease and liver disease.
Positioning “Oral health science that maintains general health through oral health” and “Research into tissue regeneration and rebuilding” as priority projects, Kyushu University’s Faculty of Dental Science aims to provide powerful backing for research in this field and to form an abundantly creative global research hub. Moreover, aware of its mission to achieve this as a research-focused university, Kyushu University is also devoting its energies to (1) rolling out education that fosters research-minded undergraduate and graduate students; and (2) cultivating the next generation of leaders. To provide strong backing for efforts to achieve a healthy life expectancy through oral health, Kyushu University aims to create robust networks through exchanges and reciprocal visits with first-rate researchers (and research teams) worldwide (the IN-CROSS-OUT approach), thereby establishing a global research hub.
To ensure that its priority projects result in the formation of a creative hub, the Faculty of Dental Science will establish a research base for the projects promoting healthy longevity from oral health, promoting efforts to improve the standard of project research by the potential leaders of the next generation and to create intellectual property.
The plan for the oral health science project is as follows. The applicants are the world’s most highly cited researchers (SCOPUS) in the field of research into taste receptors and their mechanism for regulating food intake, and have the world’s only technology for recording single taste nerve and cell responses (physiology). They are currently undertaking creative research without precedent across the globe, investigating the comprehensive control of bone metabolism / reproduction / energy metabolism by the newly discovered PRIP (IP3 binding protein) and the related proteins PP1 and PP2A (biochemistry).
Ongoing collaborative research conducted primarily by young researchers in partnership with the world’s only research institute focused on taste and smell (Monell Center) will help to prevent obesity and lifestyle-related diseases through oral intake of nutrition, as well as helping to achieve improvements in regard to the undernutrition commonly seen among very elderly people. At the same time, they are conducting unique research in the field of periodontal medicine, analyzing the chronic inflammation among patients presenting as slightly overweight or obese (a common phenomenon among the Japanese) that accompanies severe periodontal disease and is similar to Western models of obesity (periodontics). Furthermore, they are engaged in outstanding research focused on the induction of Alzheimer’s Disease provoked by neuropathic pain due to the innate immune mechanism activated in this way (pharmacology), and on the phenomenon of dry mouth among the elderly mediated by autoimmune diseases affecting the salivary glands, such as Mikulicz’s disease (oral surgery). By seeking to enhance clinical immunology through exchanges with the immunology teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, and ultimately blending research into this topic with energy metabolism studies, the applicants will aim to establish a hub for oral health science research that encompasses neurology, immunology, and endocrinology.
Meanwhile, the applicants in the tissue regeneration and rebuilding project are achieving unsurpassed results in creative and advanced translational research that goes beyond regenerative medical research focused on the maxillofacial and oral cavity region using stem cells derived from oral tissue (hereinafter “oral cavity stem cells”), aiming to develop clinical applications for the treatment of intractable diseases throughout the body, including autoimmune disease, intractable liver disease, and congenital disorders (anatomy). In addition, they are undertaking unique research that aims to using oral cavity stem cells to better understand and diagnose the pathogenic mechanisms of intractable diseases at the molecular/genetic level, in order to develop therapies that target the relevant molecules (anatomy, pedodontics). Moreover, they are promoting the development of groundbreaking mucosal therapies that go beyond existing concepts of periodontal regeneration and dental implant therapies, aiming to use oral cavity stem cells to improve the adhesion and sealing of implants (conservative dentistry, prosthodontics). The cultivation of the next generation of young researchers is a matter of urgency in order to expand and develop regenerative medicine based on oral cavity stem cells, a field which is still in its infancy. Accordingly, through collaborative research with the University of Southern California, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan, which are conducting outstanding research, this initiative will enable young researchers to thoroughly master both theory and practice, especially the reality of translational research.
It is particularly important to move away from simply undertaking reciprocal visits (the IN-OUT approach) and to achieve a paradigm shift toward interaction (the CROSS approach) aimed at ensuring that young researchers steadily achieve results through discussion and practical work with the world’s top scientists. Moreover, Kyushu University will continue to hold its annual Kyudai Oral Bioscience international symposium and the International Symposium on Molecular and Neural Mechanisms of Taste and Olfactory Perception, inviting collaborative research partners to visit around the time of these symposiums in order to scrutinize and discuss collaborative research, as well as providing a forum at which young researchers dispatched overseas can present the results of their work. In addition, it will evaluate the level of achievement in the CROSS approach and make use of this evaluation in the project plan for the following fiscal year, as well as building milestones for future international collaborative research. Through these initiatives, Kyushu University will aim to stimulate young researchers and further enhance their motivation. Kyushu University will use these initiatives focused on enhancing the base for research and exchange to promote efforts that will turn its Faculty of Dental Science into a world-class dental research hub undertaking abundantly creative and advanced projects.