Team OBD: Oral Biofilm Disruption
Surface-associated multispecies bacterial communities thrive in biofilms, both in natural habitats and in laboratory environments. Biofilms are structural scaffolds made up of extracellular polymeric substances that establish micro-niches with distinct biochemical gradients and support signaling-cross-talk between members of either a single or multiple bacterial communities. The chemical composition of biofilms and their dense physical structures also serve as protective barriers that impede the permeation of anti-microbial agents from reaching the pathogens that are embedded within the biofilms. Thus the properties of biofilms contribute significantly to the pathogenesis of numerous chronic diseases, making biofilm-based infections extremely difficult to address. For instance, pathogens encapsulated in biofilms often survive aggressive antibiotic treatments, resisting drug doses several orders of magnitude higher than those that prove lethal to their planktonic counterparts.
Biofilm systems are ubiquitous throughout nature, but of particular interest to our team are the multispecies biofilms that colonize the oral cavity. The microbial metabolism within the biofilms established on teeth and gingival sulcus cause dental caries and periodontitis. Disruption of well-established biofilms and inhibition of the spread of pathogenic biofilms in the oral cavity are attractive strategies for treating these diseases. Our team strives to understand the underlying molecular factors that contribute to the synthesis and degradation of polymeric substances during the natural life cycle of multispecies biofilms. In particular, we are researching oral biofilms at various spatial resolutions by employing multidisciplinary approaches from fields such as microbial ecology, metabolomics and structural biology, with the final objective of discovering an array of novel small molecules that disrupt and inhibit pathogenic biofilms in the oral cavity.