Media Releases

Protein Adseverin identified as key factor driving bone loss in osteoinflammatory disease

April 23, 2015

TORONTO, ON — Adsev­erin, a pro­tein found in the body, has been iden­ti­fied as the key dri­ver behind the bone loss asso­ci­at­ed with the world’s most com­mon inflam­ma­to­ry dis­ease: gum dis­ease, or peri­odon­ti­tis. The find­ings, pub­lished this month in top biol­o­gy jour­nal FASEB by researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Fac­ul­ty of Den­tistry, paves the way for new pre­ven­tive treat­ment mod­els for this preva­lent dis­ease.

More com­mon than arthri­tis, gum dis­ease affects mil­lions of North Amer­i­cans each year. In fact, as much as $125B is spent each year in the US in an attempt to tack­le peri­odon­ti­tis — con­sid­ered an “osteoim­mune” con­di­tion sim­i­lar to osteoarthri­tis and osteo­poro­sis — and its atten­dant com­pli­ca­tion: bone loss.

“Osteoin­flam­ma­tion pro­duces larg­er osteo­clasts [bone cells],” explains Dr. Michael Glo­gauer, Pro­fes­sor in the Fac­ul­ty of Dentistry’s Matrix Dynam­ics research lab and a lead researcher of the study.  These “super­os­teo­clasts” cause dam­age as they form on the bone sur­face, and, once attached, spit out enzymes that chew away at the bone — and loosen the teeth in the process.

“The larg­er the osteo­clasts, the more effi­cient they are at resorb­ing bone,” Glo­gauer describes.

The ques­tion has always been, though: why does inflam­ma­tion cre­ate larg­er osteo­clasts?

To find the answer, the group looked care­ful­ly at the role of cytokines, chem­i­cals released by cells in the body as part of an immune response. The team dis­cov­ered that the cytokines spurred the pro­duc­tion of Adsev­erin, and from there, were able to trace a clear role for the pro­tein through study mod­els.

“[Adsev­erin] appears to be crit­i­cal for the gen­er­a­tion or for­ma­tion of super large osteo­clasts respon­si­ble for the rapid bone loss asso­ci­at­ed with peri­odon­tal dis­ease – and poten­tial­ly oth­er bone-relat­ed dis­eases such as osteoarthri­tis and osteo­poro­sis,” Glo­gauer states.

But the rel­a­tive rar­i­ty of Adsev­erin in the body adds fuel to the find­ings.

“Adsev­erin has a very lim­it­ed dis­tri­b­u­tion in the body,” he adds, “and very few cells express this pro­tein at sig­nif­i­cant lev­els, which make it eas­i­er to tar­get from a phar­ma­cother­a­peu­tic stand­point.”

“It’s an excit­ing drug tar­get,” states Glo­gauer.

Dr. Chris McCul­loch, Pro­fes­sor in the Matrix Dynam­ics research lab and anoth­er lead researcher on the study, agrees. “These find­ings offer the pos­si­bil­i­ty of look­ing for new drugs for the treat­ment of gum dis­eases.”

The study may also offer new insights into bone loss asso­ci­at­ed with osteoarthri­tis and osteo­poro­sis.

Dr. McCul­loch and Dr. Glo­gauer are sup­port­ed by research funds from the Cana­di­an Insti­tutes of Health Research.


Com­bin­ing the rigours of bio­log­i­cal and clin­i­cal research with a supe­ri­or edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence across a full range of under­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate pro­grams – with and with­out advanced spe­cial­ty train­ing – the Fac­ul­ty of Den­tistry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to has earned an inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion as a pre­mier den­tal research and train­ing facil­i­ty in Cana­da. From the cut­ting-edge sci­ence of bio­ma­te­ri­als and micro­bi­ol­o­gy, to next-gen­er­a­tion nanopar­ti­cle and stem cell ther­a­pies, to ground-break­ing pop­u­la­tion and access-to-care stud­ies, the mis­sion of the Fac­ul­ty of Den­tistry is to shape the future of den­tistry and pro­mote opti­mal health by striv­ing for integri­ty and excel­lence in all aspects of research, edu­ca­tion and clin­i­cal prac­tice.

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