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Iowa dental school awarded $1.6 million grant

Iowa City, Iowa—The University of Iowa College of Dentistry announced Sept. 6 it received another round of federal funding from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

The $1.6 million five-year grant will be used to support doctorate and postdoctoral research training of five dentists and non-dentists each year. The dentist-scientist institutional training program has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for 28 years.

However, a steep cut in the amount—which is half of previous awards—could limit the program's capabilities.

"We are really seeing the effects of recent cutbacks in government funding in research. When it cuts your grant in half, it has a real impact," said Dr. Christopher Squier, director of the Oral Sciences Training Program and professor of the UI department of oral pathology, radiology, and medicine.

"You just can't do as much," added Dr. David C. Johnsen, dean of the college of dentistry. "When you have less money, you're less ambitious."

Nonetheless, he said, the grant is still helping research that could potentially impact dentistry and oral health.

Research supported by the grant involved a study that demonstrated that sebum from sebaceous glands in the oral mucosa produced a lipid, or fatty material, that had strong antimicrobial properties and could kill oral microorganisms.

"Previously, we had no idea why there were sebaceous glands in the oral mucosa," said Dr. Squier.

Other grant-supported research involved a study on craniofacial anomalies and the way in which the appearance of the face can be related to the genetics of an individual.

"This is one of our signature programs," Dr. Johnsen said. "We want to use this to support future leaders in academia."

Some of the past trainees include Dr. Clark Stanford, who is currently associate dean for research at the UI College of Dentistry; Dr. Steven Armstrong, head of the UI department of operative dentistry; and Dr. Rebecca Slayton, director of The Center for Pediatric Dentistry and chair of the department of pediatric dentistry at the University of Washington.

The program's track record of developing future leaders is a reason why the NIH has continued to provide grant support since 1985, Dr. Squier said.

"The distinguished careers of these individuals show the value for academic dentistry of long-term investment in training and the threat that the current cuts in the NIH training budget pose to dental academics,” he said.