Student research

March 30th, 2015

Second-year dental student Christina Barry, one of TAMBCD's predoctoral student research fellows, works in the lab.

In this sneak peek at one of the projects in the lineup for the 42nd Research Scholars Day, we learn how dental student Christina Barry explored inflammatory responses common with temporomandibular disorders.

Temporomandibular disorder affects 35 million people in the U.S. Some of the condition’s telltale symptoms — pain, stiffness and popping of the jaw — can impact oral health, which means Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry researchers have forged a concentrated effort to understand more about this complex condition. Second-year dental student Christina Barry has dedicated the past three summers to analyzing how the protein interleukin-23 affects temporomandibular joint inflammation in rat models.

Barry’s research first began in January 2012 while she was still a graduate student at Long Island University in New York, studying biomedical science with an emphasis in immunology. She moved to Dallas prior to starting dental school in fall 2013 to work on the project with faculty mentor Dr. Robert Spears, then a biomedical sciences professor.

Her research revealed that interleukin-23 may contribute to inflammation in the temporomandibular joint through the release of proinflammatory cytokines, proteins that regulate cells in the immune system. While more study is needed, the findings mean that potential therapies could include anti-interleukin-23 treatment. She presented those findings to her professors in New York as a part the master’s degree requirements, and in March, she was one of 25 TAMBCD students to present her research during the American Association for Dental Research annual meeting in Boston.

“This research experience made me realize that disease states or disorders do not have just a clear-cut answer,” says Barry. “Many different factors contribute to the expression or nonexpression of a diseased state. Genetics and environmental factors equally play important roles.”

Barry is one of more than 60 student researchers who will present their findings on April 1 during the 42nd Annual Research Scholars Day at TAMBCD. The event offers predoctoral dental and dental hygiene students as well as graduate students and residents the chance to showcase their findings. For many, it serves as the culmination of the Predoctoral Research Fellow Program, a TAMBCD mainstay that exposes students to the research arena within dental academics.

The event is free for those who want to attend, but registration is required by 5 p.m. on March 31.

Here’s a rundown of events:

42nd Annual Research Scholars Day at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry

  • Vendor fair – noon-3 p.m., basement
  • Poster presentations – 1-2:30 p.m., sixth floor foyer
  • Dental hygiene table clinics – 1-2:30 p.m., Lab 30
  • Dental hygiene table clinic awards – 2:30–2:45 p.m., Room 605
  • Oral presentations – 2:45-4:15 p.m., Room 605
  • Refreshments – 4:15-4:45 p.m., sixth floor foyer
  • Awards ceremony – 4:45 p.m., Room 605

— Jennifer Fuentes