Research team takes first place with SPM poster

February 9th, 2023

DH2 researchers (from left) Amber Raglin, Carrie Bilbrey, and Amber Tran 

Three dental hygiene students recently claimed first prize with their research at the 81st Texas Dental Hygienists’ Association conference in San Marcos, Texas.

DH2 students Carrie Bilbrey, Amber Tran and Amber Raglin presented their research on specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) to a crowd of 400, winning first place and $700.  A dozen other schools participated in the contest.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these ladies,” said Dr. M. Douglas Benson, associate professor in biomedical science and the team’s research mentor. “They worked so hard on their own time and prepared so well. Watching them up there, I could see they were just at the very top of their game. They were head and shoulders above what anyone expected to see that day.”

SPMs are a type of molecule that research has shown to be helpful in fighting arthritis, chronic pain and bone loss through periodontitis. Bilbrey explained that in recent trials SPMs have proven useful in ending the inflammation in periodontitis that causes the bone loss In fact, it can help with bone growth, as well.

“It’ll revolutionize the way we’re treating periodontitis,” Tran said. “Our research focused on the molecules themselves and how they act on immune cells and bone cells. It’s a pretty scientific topic, but in general, they’re something that’s made naturally in our body. We’re just introducing it to the oral cavity in a more substantial dose.”

Bilbrey said it “changes everything for patients.”

“It improves quality of life if you’re keeping teeth,” she said.  “If you’re introducing them to patients who can’t overcome chronic inflammation, you’re helping them resolve inflammation, build bone and generate periodontal ligament.”

Tran and Raglin said Bilbrey organized the research team. She showed them the new research coming out around SPMs, and they all became really interested in the topic. Having put together a winning poster and presentation feels incredible, they said, especially since they got to see their hard work pay off.

Raglin said they weren’t cocky or overconfident going into the presentation, but when they were done, it did feel like they’d made a strong impression.

“Personally, I was shocked,” Raglin said. “I was kind of a deer-in-the-headlights when we were presenting. I didn’t see just how amazed people were. After we did it, I was like, ‘That was amazing! I’m pretty sure we’re No. 1.’”

Kayla Reed, clinic coordinator for the DH2 class and another mentor for the research team, said she was impressed by their research and the amount of time and effort they put into their poster.

“I’m not surprised they won,” she said. “The research was cutting edge and exciting.”

The DH2 research team’s poster

— Caleb Vierkant