Dental research takes first place at annual neuroscience retreat
May 24, 2021
Katie V. Lillis, a neuroscience doctoral student in the lab of Anibal Diogenes, DDS, MS, PhD, won a first-place research award at the Center for Biomedical Neuroscience (CBN) Annual Spring Research Retreat in May. Lillis’ research project is titled “Modulation of Bone Loss in Apical Periodontitis by Trigeminal Ganglia Nociceptors.”
Through her study of apical periodontitis and the bone loss which accompanies it, Lillis has found evidence indicating that nociceptors — pain-sensing neurons — play an active and protective role in the disease by delaying the immune response and communicating directly with bone cells to promote bone-building.
Lillis’ research uses two new techniques to study the role of nociceptors in apical periodontitis bone loss. One of those techniques, RNA sequencing, allows her to monitor changes in the genes surrounding the root of the infected tooth as the disease progresses. The other new technique was using an RNA scope, which permitted her to better understand the expression of genes that she is targeting.
“This technique is particularly awesome,” Lillis said of the RNA scope. “Bone tissue is traditionally tricky to stain to view targets we are interested in, but this technique gave us beautiful results that really helped tie the whole story together.”
Lillis hopes her work will contribute to future treatment options for patients experiencing bone loss due to apical periodontitis.
The CBN was formed in 2001 to serve as an umbrella organization for all neuroscientists and neuroscience-related activities on the UT Health San Antonio campus. It currently has more than 120 members throughout the institution.