Eliminating tooth decay — and the dreaded dentist’s drill
The Researcher of the Year Award recognizes 10 UIC scientists who are advancing knowledge in their fields. The Distinguished Researcher Award honors five researchers with a record of outstanding achievement. The Rising Star Award honors early-career researchers who show promise as future leaders.
Ana Bedran-Russo is working toward a world with no tooth decay.
Bedran-Russo, associate professor of restorative dentistry, uses biological principles to enhance the properties of the tooth, working to halt dental decay and create new ways to restore lost tooth structure with materials similar to the tooth itself. More natural material reduces the likelihood that the tooth will need to be repaired again.
Her discoveries, a significant advancement in the field of restorative dentistry, have tremendous implications for overall health. Rather than removing diseased tooth structure and replacing it with materials dissimilar to natural teeth, patients will have treatment options that help them remain free of dental decay.
The chemical compounds she studies – proanthocyanidins – are a class of polyphenols derived from plants, found in seeds, bark and leaves. She is experimenting with grapeseed, cocoa seed, pine bark and cinnamon bark extracts.
Bedran-Russo’s work has significant potential to impact patient care, says Luisa Dipietro, professor and director of UIC’s Center for Wound Healing and Tissue Regeneration.
“As her research progresses, Dr. Bedran-Russo’s findings will affect every single one of us who has ever sat in dread of the dentist’s drill,” DiPietro says. “Given the rising recognition of the influence of oral health status on overall health, including nutrition, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many other diseases, Dr. Bedran-Russo’s discoveries will provide a significant benefit to general health.”
A native of Brazil, Bedran-Russo came to UIC as a post-doctorate student in 2005 and joined the faculty in 2006. She has taught at her alma mater, the University of Campinas’ Piracicaba School of Dentistry, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bedran-Russo has been awarded more than $5.5 million in grants and published more than 75 manuscripts. She is program director of the College of Dentistry’s MOST (Multidisciplinary Oral Science Training) Program and past president of the International Association for Dental Research’s Dental Materials Scientific Research Group. She is a board member of the Academy of Dental Materials.
Bedran-Russo says Researcher of the Year is an honor she never expected.
“There are so many great UIC research colleagues in the clinical sciences, and I am truly honored to be selected,” she says. “It is amazing recognition of my research, the research done in the College of Dentistry and the impact of oral health research.”