Research in Focus

Dr. Nigel Bunnett

Dr. Nigel Bunnett

Mechanism for Colon Pain and Inflammation Revealed

Study in mice and cells illustrates how a protease-activated receptor entering cells leads to pain and inflammation — and how blocking it holds promise for treating colitis

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was conducted in mice with colitis, an inflammatory disease marked by chronic and sometimes painful inflammation of the large intestine. Studies show that protease activation of PAR2 is involved in gastrointestinal diseases that can be associated with pain, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer. But until now, scientists have not fully understood the receptor’s signaling mechanism and how it induces pain.

“We identified not only where this receptor is in the digestive tract, but also how it signals inflammation and pain in the colon,” said Nigel Bunnett, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Pathobiology, assistant dean for research development, and the study’s senior author. “This more complete understanding of PAR2 and its signaling mechanism could ultimately help us to better treat inflammatory and painful diseases of the colon,” he added.



Study Reveals How Migraine Pain Signals Are Generated — and Blocked

Published in Nature Communications, the study led by Nigel Bunnett, PhD, illustrates how pain is signaled from within Schwann cells and finds several ways to block this signaling, providing potential targets for new migraine treatments.

Migraines affect more than 15 percent of adults, with women twice as likely as men to experience these intense headaches. Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a small protein in the nervous system, is known to play an important role in migraine pain; in fact, a new class of drugs to prevent migraines uses injections of monoclonal antibodies to target CGRP or its receptor.

While the role of CGRP in migraine pain is well known, our study is the first to directly connect Schwann cells to migraine pain. Activating CGRP receptors generates pain signals within Schwann cells but blocking CGRP actions inside Schwann cells offers potential new treatments for migraine pain based on our enhanced understanding of how pain is signaled from within endosomes,” said Dr. Bunnett.



Rajesh Khanna

Dr. Rajesh Khanna

New Life for a Cancer Drug That Reprograms Pain Pathways to Treat Chronic Pain

Researchers are closer to developing a safe and effective non-opioid pain reliever after a study showed that a new compound they created reduces the sensation of pain by regulating a biological channel linked to pain.

“Drug discovery for chronic pain is at the forefront of this research, and it's being amplified by the intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic,” said Rajesh Khanna, PhD, professor of molecular pathobiology and director of the NYU Pain Research Center. The paper, “Selective targeting of NaV1.7 via inhibition of the CRMP2-Ubc9 interaction reduces pain in rodents,” was published in Science Translational Medicine.



Deepak Saxena

Drs. Deepak Saxena and Xin Li

Evidence Grows for Vaping’s Role in Gingival Disease

Research confirms unique community of bacteria and immune responses among people who use e-cigarettes

New studies from NYU Dentistry researchers highlight how e-cigarettes alter oral health and may be contributing to gingival disease. The latest study, published in mBio, finds that e-cigarette users have a unique oral microbiome — the community of bacteria and other microorganisms — that is less healthy than nonsmokers but potentially healthier than cigarette smokers, and measures worsening gingival disease over time.

To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study of oral health and e-cigarette use. We are now beginning to understand how e-cigarettes and the chemicals they contain are changing the oral microbiome and disrupting the balance of bacteria,” said Deepak Saxena, PhD, who led the research with Xin Li, PhD; both are professors of molecular pathobiology.



Dr. Zahra Bagheri

Dr. Zahra Bagheri

Patients Reporting Penicillin Allergy Are Less Likely to Have Successful Dental Implants

Antibiotic alternatives to amoxicillin linked to an increase in dental implant failure

A new study from Zahra Bagheri, DMD, and colleagues shows that dental implants are more than twice as likely to fail in people who report an allergy to penicillin and are given alternative antibiotics. Published in Clinical Implant Dentistry and Related Research, the study is the first to examine the impact of prescribing antibiotics other than amoxicillin for dental implants. However, research shows that penicillin allergies are overreported — 90% of people who say they have penicillin allergies are not truly allergic to penicillin after testing. As a result, health experts recommend testing patients who report a penicillin allergy to confirm whether they are actually allergic.

If a patient's actual allergy status is determined prior to oral surgery, we may be able to achieve more favorable outcomes by prescribing amoxicillin to those without a true allergy,” said Dr. Bagheri, clinical assistant professor in the Ashman Department of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry, and the study’s lead author.


Annual Research Days Poster Competition 2022 Features 172 Student Posters, Keynote Remarks by Dr. Nigel Bunnett, and a Tribute to Dr. Louis Terracio

The College’s 2022 Research Days showcased the work of 172 pre- and postdoctoral dental students, dental hygiene students, international programs students, master’s degree students, and research scholars. The poster competition was a virtual event powered by Eposterboards, LLC, which provided presentation viewing and judging in real time through their events platform. A panel of distinguished volunteer judges evaluated the posters.

The three-day event ran from Wednesday, April 27, through Friday, April 29, and featured a keynote lecture by Dr. Nigel Bunnett, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Pathobiology and assistant dean for research development, titled “Platforms for the Signaling Train to Pain.” Dr. Brian Schmidt, senior vice dean for research development and academic affairs, presented Dr. Bunnett with the Kathleen C. Kinnally Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award in recognition of his vast research contributions.

The program also included a tribute to former vice dean for academic affairs and research Dr. Louis Terracio. Dean Bertolami paid tribute to Dr. Terracio and presented him with the NYU Dentistry Leadership Award in recognition of his 20-plus years of distinguished service to New York University and its College of Dentistry.

The Awards Ceremony followed. To view the names of all the award-winning students and their presentations, visit the Annual Research Days page. NYU Dentistry congratulates the awardees and their faculty advisors on their work.


Read more in this issue of Global Health Nexus