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UR plans meeting on life forms living in mouth

Questions you might have wanted to ask about independent life forms living in your mouth can be answered this week at the University of Rochester.

Beginning June 16, the medical center’s Center for Oral Biology plans to hold a gathering of 100 researchers studying the genome of human oral fauna.

“We’re bringing together people who have made it their lives’ work to understand the members of these microbial communities. The long-term goal is to improve human health, perhaps by understanding why some people are more susceptible to certain diseases than others,” Center for Oral Biology director Robert Quivey Jr. said.

More than 500 but probably fewer than 1,000 microbes make the human mouth their home. Researchers studying such organisms focus on how they interact and survive and how they might affect sick or healthy individuals. Tooth decay is the most commonly known ill such bacteria promote. They also could play a role in oral and throat cancers.
Unraveling the particular genetic code of these microbes could provide clues to how we can tip the balance toward beneficial microbes and prevent bad ones from proliferating in our mouths, Quivey said.

In unlocking the genome of mouth fauna, scientists have a formidable task. Collectively such species have 2 million or more genes with billions of base pairs comprising the genes.

The bacterium Quivey studies, a microbe responsible for tooth decay known as streptococcus mutans, has 1,963 genes. His research involves knocking out each gene one by one to see what effect it has.

The four-day conference is slated to wrap up Saturday June 18.            

(c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.


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