Dentistry researcher Dr. Luda Diatchenko's new project on environmental factors that create gene 'marks' related to Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) has received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) totalling over $1.4M. The research project, entitled, "DNA Methylation and Mediation of Risk Factors for Chronic Facial Pain," is co-investigated by Dentistry researchers Drs. Richard Hovey and Laura Stone, in addition to Drs. Moshe Szyf and William Maixner from the McGill University Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics and Duke University Department of Anesthesiology, respectively.
Many Canadians live with chronic orofacial pain caused by TMD, yet not cause or molecular marker is currently known to help diagnose, predict, or treat the disorder. Yet genetic markers can often inform researchers of how TMD is inherited genetically. This research project will investigate the various environmental factors that affect how genes work (such as stress, inflammation, diet, and medication) in relation to TMD. In doing so, this research initiative will better our understanding of TMD, and allow clinicians to better predict, diagnose, and treat or even prevent TMD in the future.
About 5 to 10% of Canadians live with chronic pain in their mouth, jaws and face (called orofacial pain) caused by temporomandibular disorder (or TMD, meaning issues with your jaw or the muscles that control it). TMD's cause is unknown and there are no specific molecular markers for TMD to help diagnose, predict or treat it. While TMD has some inherited genetic components that are passed on through families, how our genes work can be modulated by environmental factors such as exposure to stress, inflammation, diet, and medication. One way that environmental factors alter how our genes work is by adding 'marks' to the DNA through a process called methylation. We will study blood and tissue samples provided by healthy people and people with TMD, as well as people with other chronic pain conditions. All samples will be examined for genome-wide methylation patterns. These studies will allow us to identify how methylation patterns affect TMD, who will get TMD and who will not, and whose TMD will persist over time. In addition, by comparing to samples from other types of chronic pain, we will identify methylation patterns in people that are common to TMD and other chronic pain conditions. Ultimately this will help us understand more about how the environment affects a person's genetics in terms of their risk of TMD and how better to predict, diagnose, and ultimately treat or prevent painful TMD.