The junctional epithelium (JE) is an important group of epithelial cells that reside between the tooth and the oral mucosa. At the base of the JE is a putative epithelial stem cell niche (*) that replenishes the junctional epithelium. The region is defined by the expression of Wnt-responding cells. In periodontal disease, the JE can be damaged and regresses, breaking the connection between the tooth and surrounding gums. The regression of the JE is linked to the subsequent loss of bone around the tooth, ultimately leading to tooth loss. If the JE stem cell niche could be stimulated in periodontal disease, the regression of the JE could be reversed, providing a novel regenerative therapy for periodontal disease. For this we need to understand how the JE stem cell niche is regulated.
• To map the signals and cell populations that maintain the JE stem cell niche.
• To follow the impact of periodontal disease on the stem cell niche in a mouse model
• To rescue the regression of the JE in periodontal disease
We will use a range of transgenic mouse models, allowing us to address the molecular signals that control the JE, combined with mouse periodontal disease models. The student will be trained in molecular biology techniques, mouse transgenics, laser capture microdissection, bioinformatics (RNAseq), and imaging, and immersed in clinically relevant problems. Critical thinking, presentation and writing skills will be taught.
• Year 1: Mapping the JE niche
• Year 2: Impact of disease
• Year 3: Rescue of disease progression