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Biologic and Materials Sciences and Division of Prosthodontics

Hu Lab

Research Statement

My research interest concentrates on the formation of tooth enamel and dentin. Our laboratory has characterized the critical components of the developing tooth at the protein, cDNA and gene level from multiple species. Specifically, we were the first to characterize enamelin, kallikrein4 and MMP20 in developing teeth, which allowed us to establish knockout mouse models and demonstrate enamel structural defects in the absence of specific genes. Subsequently, transgenic mouse models were generated to rescue the enamel defects in the knockout background. To achieve our research goals in understanding tooth development and regenerating tooth elements, optimized experimental protocols for conducting gene/protein arrays, molecular cloning, protein engineering, morphological and cell/organ culture experiments using developing teeth from mouse and pig have been established. In addition, specific constructs, DNA clones and antibodies have been generated and characterized to aid the research on tooth development and malformations. Our lab is one of the very few research laboratories worldwide conducting screening for selected families with inherited dental defects (please see NCBI GTR http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gtr/labs/320121/). Our ultimate goal is to apply basic science discoveries toward devising therapeutic measures for human disorders involving tooth defects. Separately, my clinical training and experience have allowed me to develop projects focus on pulp biology and therapy. With MICHR support, we initiated a multi-center, multi-operator, long-term, prospective study investigating the efficacy of mineral trioxide aggregate (MTA) in primary tooth pulpotomies. With 42-month study outcome analysis, it is demonstrated that clinically and radiographically, MTA is superior to that of the diluted formocresol, the current gold standard. Results of these studies indicate that MTA is an effective dressing for pulpotomies, which is a procedure performed on millions of pulpally infected primary and young permanent teeth every year.