Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Shaoping Zhang

Based on his team’s earlier work classifying types of periodontal disease, Shaoping Zhang, assistant professor of periodontics, and his research team identified IFN-β, a classical member of Type I Interferon family, as a key regulator of periodontitis.

Periodontitis is one of the most prevalent inflammatory diseases, and it has many different subtypes. In their earlier research, the team found that using an evidenced-based periodontal profile classification approach was more effective at predicting whether a patient with a particular periodontal profile was more likely to have systemic conditions associated with periodontitis, such as diabetes, than other widely applied classification schemes.

Using a proteomic biomarker analysis while refining this classification scheme, the team found that an interferon-β (IFN-β) cytokine, a classical member of type I interferon (IFN-I), protects against alveolar bone loss and reduces inflammation, but the precise mechanism still needed further study.

The National Institutes of Health-NIDCR awarded Zhang and his team a 5-year, $1.95 million R01 grant to conduct this research by assessing and improving our understanding of the role of I interferon (IFN-I) in periodontal disease. The team hypothesizes that its protective function is accomplished because the IL-17-neurophil axis is deactivated through an IL-27 pathway.

This research project will test the hypothesis, paying specific attention to IFN-I signaling and how it modulates innate and adaptive immune responses against periodontal disease. Using this information, the team will collaborate with the group led by co-investigator, Hongli Sun, to fine-tune a locally-administered nanoparticle delivery system that will release drugs in a controlled manner to stimulate IFN-β/IFN-I over a period of time. The results may help develop a treatment strategy against certain kinds of periodontal disease.

This high-profile research project builds on several recent successes, both internally and externally, from Zhang and his team. In 2019, Zhang received an NIH career transition grant that anticipated some of the work here. He also received 2020 College of Dentistry Seed Grant that provided important data used to support this research. Zhang also received a private foundation grant, Colgate Award for Research Excellence, from Colgate in 2020 to support this research.

Zhang’s record of success has helped grow Iowa Dentistry’s mission in research and discovery—producing novel translational research that can treat those who suffer from periodontitis. 

Zhang’s research team include Hongli Sun, associate professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery, and Erliang Zeng, associate professor of dental research.