Zhao Lin, BDS, PhD, 2014 Teaching Fellow:

1. What is your research focus?

My long-term goal is to better understand the mechanisms underlying the tissue destruction caused by periodontal diseases and develop novel regenerative strategies to promote periodontal tissue regeneration.

2. What has/have been the most significant contribution(s) of your research to our specialty?

I have studied the function and therapeutic potential of novel signaling molecules, such as LIM domain mineralization protein (LMP), in periodontal regeneration. We found that gene delivery of LMP3 may synergistically promote the bone regenerative effects of BMP7. Currently, based on the concept of protein engineering, we are developing a novel mesenchymal stem cell affinity peptide to facilitate the homing of autogenous stem cells to periodontal defects, therefore promote periodontal regeneration. We also study the role of matrix vesicle microRNAs in bone development and regeneration. Matrix vesicles are membrane organelles found in the extracellular matrix of calcifying cells that have important functions in initial bone mineralization. We have identified a distinct microRNA profile of matrix vesicles.

3. What are some future directions of your research program?

We hope that our studies about the functions of these microRNAs will provide fundamental knowledge for future periodontal regenerative therapies based on these small molecules.

4. What influence did the support from the Foundation have on your career as a researcher?

Becoming a dentist-scientist is my dream. However, pursuing an academic research career is not an easy decision for many young graduates after years of clinical and research training and a significant amount of student loan. The AAPF Teaching Fellowship has significantly helped me in reducing financial burden, and provided tremendous support for me to follow my dream.

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Past Award Winners Update

Congratulations to Gustavo Avila-Ortiz, DDS, MS, PhD, 2011 Teaching Fellow and 2009 AAPF Fellow to the ADEA/AAL Institute for Teaching and Learning in the Health Professions, who recently was appointed Department Chair (DEO) and promoted to Professor at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, Department of Periodontics.