Immune cells linked to new model of gum disease



Periodontitis, or chronic gum inflammation, is one of the most prevalent human inflammatory diseases and can cause devastating effects to the bone surrounding the gums. Not only is the condition harmful to individuals, but it also poses a serious economic and public health burden. Although there is evidence that bacteria play a large role in the development and spread of periodontitis, the exact mechanism by which microbes cause this inflammation was unknown.


IRP researchers, led by Niki Moutsopoulos, D.D.S., Ph.D., found that an overabundance of TH17 immune cells, which produce an inflammatory cytokine called IL-17, are responsible for the inflammation that causes periodontitis in both mice and humans. This overabundance is caused by a disruption in the community of microbes living in the mouth, known as the oral microbiome, which triggers the normal population of TH17 cells to expand rapidly.


Understanding that an overabundance of TH17 cells and the resulting excessive production of IL-17 causes periodontitis paves the way for new therapeutic treatments that target these cells, the molecules that they produce, or the processes that activate them.


Dutzan N, Kajikawa T, Abusleme L, Greenwell-Wild T, Zuazo CE, Ikeuchi T, Brenchley L, Abe T, Hurabielle C, Martin D, Morell RJ, Freeman AF, Lazarevic V, Trinchieri G, Diaz PI, Holland SM, Belkaid Y, Hajishengallis G, Moutsopoulos NM. (2018). A dysbiotic microbiome triggers Th17 cells to mediate oral mucosal immunopathology in mice and humans. Sci. Transl. Med. 10(451). pii: eaap8798. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aat0797.

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This page was last updated on Friday, June 9, 2023