“The OMS Foundation grant had a significant impact not only on me, but on my entire research team.”
Dr. Lisa Tran is a chief resident at Emory in Atlanta, GA. In 2014, she was awarded a $75,000 Research Support Grant for research on “BMP Delivery Strategies for Treating Bone defects in Pediatric Patients.”
What are the highlights of your research?
Lisa Tran: I’ve always been interested in bone regeneration. Reconstruction of maxillofacial bone defects is a challenging problem in our specialty. Autologous grafts are the gold standard but are limited by donor site morbidity, insufficient volume, and restrictions in graft shape and contour. Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) is a popular product used in OMS, but there is no research regarding dosing of BMP, and it’s often arbitrary. The FDA has a black box warning against use in pediatrics, but many OMSs use it, particularly in clefts, because of shortened operating time, absence of donor site morbidity, and reduction of overall cost. We wanted to determine dosing effects, particularly pediatric dosing.
We used a rat model, using young and old rats to simulate differences in bone regeneration between a child and an adult. We looked at early gene expression in a short-term study and also bone regeneration over time in a long-term study. We used radiographs, micro-CT, bone volume and density analysis, biomechanical studies, and histology to compare bone regeneration. We found that the older animals had high expression of inflammatory genes, and younger rats had high expression of genes relating to bone and cartilage formation with less inflammation. The younger animals had enhanced bone regeneration with more bone formation and increased strength compared to the older animals. We presented our results at ACOMS and it was well received, and our findings will be published soon.
How did you hear about OMS Foundation grants?
LT: In 2009 as a dental student, one of my faculty members at UCLA, Dr. Vivek Shetty, encouraged me to apply for funding to attend the AAOMS Young Investigators Day. I was fortunate to receive the funding, and my experience there solidified my desire to specialize in oral and maxillofacial surgery when I had the opportunity to hear and meet so many OMSs doing research and being so passionate about their work to help their patients. Since then, I’ve followed the OMS Foundation and the work they have done to support research in our specialty. When I started doing research in residency, I looked at the many funding opportunities from the Foundation.
How was the process of applying for the grant?
LT: I thought it was very straightforward. If you really have an idea and something you are interested in, then the process of applying for the Foundation grant is not too difficult and was less burdensome than other times I’ve applied for funding.
How did the money you were awarded impact your research?
LT: The grant was a huge deal. Animal research and basic science research is very expensive, as well as all the imaging and gene assays that were involved in my project. I had a graduate student in my lab who was critical to completing the project whose salary was funded in part by the OMS Foundation grant. The funding allowed my research to be more robust and comprehensive with both long- and short-term studies, making the results more impactful.
What results have been published and presented so far?
LT: My abstract presentation entitled “Age-related differences in BMP-2 mediated bone repair” was recently presented at the ACOMS meeting in Puerto Rico. It was very well received at ACOMS, and received first place in the abstract competition, which included research submitted by residents, students, and practicing oral and maxillofacial surgeons. Our results will be published in the next few months.
What are you planning on doing after graduation?
LT: I am excited to return home to Southern California and join the practice of Dr. Sandy Ratner and Dr. Monty Wilson. Eventually, I would love to pursue an academic career.
How did your OMS Foundation grant impact your future career decisions and motivation for future research?
LT: The OMS Foundation grant had a significant impact not only on me, but on my entire research team. I want to stay in touch with research, and I will be looking for a different lab and different project after graduating from residency. It was very encouraging for me to be involved in research, and I know that research will be a significant part of my career. I could not have won first prize at the ACOMS meeting without the support of the Foundation.
The grad student I mentioned earlier who was dedicated to this project, is working on a PhD based on our research. My co-PI, Robert Guldberg, is director of biomedical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, and our initial findings really constitute a pilot study, so research on this topic will continue after I leave.
Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
LT: I think that the grants and the opportunities the Foundation offers to residents and researchers are incredibly important. We need to push research in our field to make advances, lower costs, and obtain consistent patient outcomes. The Foundation’s work is critical in progressing the field and ultimately providing the best care to our patients.