The King’s College London Dental Institute has a broad portfolio in ageing related oral health research, spanning fundamental science, clinical and translational research, as well as public health and social and behavioural sciences.This large spectrum forms an exciting background for many cross-disciplinary interactions, creates an environment to translate new discoveries into clinical settings and allows us to explore a scientific questions from different angles.
The mouth is an ecosystem containing a range of microorganisms. Balance or homeostasis of the oral environment is maintained by saliva and the mucosal immune system, and the community of microorganisms (microbiome) that has adapted to that environment. Our research encompasses the characterization of the human microbiota, particularly in the mouth and its relationship to the gut microbiome. Of particular interest is the two-way relationship between disease and alterations in the microbiome and the influences of genotypes, age, nutrition and medication.
Saliva is important for protection of mucosal surfaces and teeth facilitate a protective function. A reduction of saliva production is seen with age, due in part to the effects of medication in the elderly which causes alterations in the oral environment with an increased susceptibility to disease. Saliva is increasingly being recognised as a non-invasively collected biofluid for the diagnosis of both oral and systemic disease. Our research is investigating the application of salivary diagnostics in age related disease. Our aim is to understand pathogen interactions at mucosal surfaces, and examine basic immunological responses to exogenous stress, immunopathology of autoimmune mucocutaneous disorders, and the role of microbial virulence factors. Cancer is a major cause of mucosal disease and researchers in the group are studying possible therapeutic targets and developing therapeutics that include small molecule inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, peptides and microRNAs.
Taste sensation is known to be affected by ageing, particularly after 65 years of age. The reasons for decreased sensitivity to taste are not known but one possible reason is a change in the physical properties of saliva. Saliva acts as the solubilizing medium for foods and also as an interface for drinks, aiding the delivery of tastants to taste buds located mostly within crypts on the tongue. The viscoelastic properties of saliva are created by the proteins and ions within an aqueous base that forms a complex non-Newtonian liquid with strong interfacial films. As well as the basic tastants (sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami), trigeminal (spices), smell and mouthfeel tastants are also being examined. Astringent polyphenols and oil-containing emulsions are common foods components that add mouthfeel to foods. In addition, the detection of thirst is another mouthfeel attribute being examined with potential benefits for the older person who often lose their sense of thirst with obvious implications for hydration.
Dr Guy Carpenter, Division of Mucosal and Salivary Biology
Professor Dusko Ehrlich, Centre for Host-Microbiome Interactions
The Carpenter Laboratory studies salivary function in maintaining a normal healthy mouth. This is achieved by projects on saliva and salivary glands. The connection between the two is vital to understanding normal and diseased states. Saliva projects use proteomic and metabolomics approaches to investigate taste and chewing, mouthfeel, oral lubrication, dental erosion, dry mouth, salivary biomarkers of ageing, obesity, renal carcinoma, multiple sclerosis and vitamin mal-absorption. Studies on salivary glands examine regeneration via pathways such as mTOR and autophagy, salispheres and other stem cell-related growth and atrophy. Read more here.
Dr David Moyes, Centre for Host-Microbiome Interactions
Professor Ehrlich is the Director of the Centre for Host-Microbiome interactions. The centres aim is to characterize the human microbiota, enabling the study of its variation with population, genotypes, disease, age, nutrition, medication and environment. Therefore opening avenues to modify it in order to optimize the health and wellbeing of any individual. Read more here.
Professor Gordon Proctor, Division of Mucosal & Salivary Biology
Dr. Moyes is a lecturer in Host-Microbiome in the Centre for Host-Microbiome Interactions. The Moyes lab studies the interactions between the human host and the microbiota that reside at the different mucosal surfaces, including bacteria, fungi and viruses. The Moyes lab is investigating how changes in microbial communities associated with ageing can lead to chronic diseases, including oral disease and ageing-associated inflammation. And how interactions between different members of the microbial community impact on these developments. Read more here.
Dr Saeed Shoaie, Centre for Host-Microbiome Interactions
Professor Proctor is Head of the Mucosal & Salivary Biology Division in the Dental Institute. The Proctor Laboratory studies the relationship between salivary glands and saliva and health. A range of research methods are used including experimental studies on model systems and collection of samples from human subjects in health and disease. The complex mixture of host molecules and microbial populations in saliva are being studied as biomarkers of health and disease. Read more here.
Dr. Saeed Shoaie is a lecturer in Host-Microbiome Systems and Synthetic Biology. His lab activities and interests include analysis of multi-omics data in different cohort studies and in the generation of genome-scale metabolic models (GEMs) for host and microbiome. Dr Shoaie's group is interested in the ageing associated with metabolic changes in humans through generating specific gene catalogues, reconstruction of GEMs for the human cell types, and microbiome to advance the identification of relevant biomarkers; used for classifying the metabolic changes and the discovery of novel targets that can be used for counteracting the human ageing. Read more here.