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Advances in Health and Medicine

DNA Bank Provides a Research Windfall


At the School of Dental Medicine, some researchers come to work every day hoping to make people drool—all to help build what is believed to be the world’s only DNA bank to share data among colleagues.

With an overwhelming need to better understand the effects of genes, nutrition, and environment on dental health, as well as find the best way to conduct research opportunities when budgets are tight, Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine created the Dental Registry and DNA Repository (DRDR). Directed by Alexandre Vieira, DRDR obtains clinical information and a biological sample from all individuals who seek treatment at Pitt’s dental school. So far, DRDR has helped demonstrate the genetic profile of cleft palates and explain why women get more cavities.

A simple spit into a plastic cup collects the sample (patients’ identities are protected through a number-labeling system), and DRDR helps researchers from Pitt and other institutions collaborate on such projects as searching for a genetic link to cavities and studying cleft palates. Because many researchers share the registry, it is expect to save about $25,000 per study. In addition, it eliminates the need for further Institutional Review Board evaluations of projects seeking to use data.

Vieira uses it to study cleft palates and missing teeth and to investigate links between premature birth and periodontal diseases. “My motivation in creating this repository is I can do all these studies in the background,” he says. Research Program Manager Jacqueline Noel helps organize and coordinate all this research, making it more user-friendly and accessible to the myriad institutions that now use DRDR resources in conducting their studies.