USC is one of six California universities in a dental institution collaboration that will receive $12 million over the next three years through a research grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
The research grant was awarded to the California-based Center for Dental, Oral & Craniofacial Tissue & Organ Regeneration, also known as C-DOCTOR — a joint venture between several California institutions, including the University of California at San Francisco, Berkeley, Davis and Los Angeles, an Ostrow research team at USC and Stanford University.
C-DOCTOR received the grant for its progress in developing safe and effective clinical strategies for tissue regeneration in the field. The group will act as a nationwide resource for the recruitment, cultivation and clinical translation of innovative technologies to regenerate dental and craniofacial tissues and organs damaged due to congenital disorders, trauma and disease.
USC professors Yang Chai, Yong Chen and Mark Urata are members of the team that received the grant, along with researchers from the other five universities in C-DOCTOR. Bridget Samuels, a senior research coordinator at USC’s Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, worked closely with Chai.
“We are trying to identify promising new approaches to engineering dental, oral and craniofacial tissues so that we can replace or regenerate tissues that are lost to … trauma, after surgery or removing a tumor,” Samuels said. “C-DOCTOR brings together all the resources that the research team would need to bring their technology into large animal models and [get] ready for phase one of clinical human trials.”
Samuels said that they had received previous funding from NIDCR, whose program was in two stages. In 2015, they funded 10 groups across the country to start planning the development of a resource center like C-DOCTOR. USC had successfully competed for one of those one-year grants. Now, the grant will help get the resource center up and running as the team looks to put together the strongest group by joining forces with other universities throughout California.
Samuels said the grant will help further the research C-DOCTOR is doing now on stem cells.
“I think right now people are starting to realize the potential of stem cells in regenerative medicines,” Samuels said. “There are a lot of different types of stem cells that have been identified in the dental region, many of them being pioneered by USC faculty. We are trying to understand the different kind of stem cells that are easily accessible because they are in the mouth and use their power to regenerate all kinds of tissues, like bones and gum tissues.”
According to Samuels, these products are not yet available in the market, making it one major direction that C-DOCTOR is planning to look into.
Samuels said that the first thing the team will do in the next couple of months is issue a request to recruit team members with promising projects. The research team will review the potential members’ proposals and provide counseling on how C-DOCTOR would be able to use these projects to make the best impact in the field.