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PhD | MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Houston, Texas, 2010
BA | Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, 2003
Dr. Cameron Jeter holds a PhD in neuroscience, with specific training in clinical and translational research. She has a strong and well-demonstrated interest in how oral health alters the trajectory of neurodegenerative disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease) and how these diseases impact oral health. She also works to improve access to healthcare for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
In addition to her position at UTHealth School of Dentistry, Dr. Jeter is an associate faculty member at The MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Dean’s Excellence Award in the Scholarship of Teaching, the Dean’s Excellence Award in the Scholarship of Application, and the ADEA Leadership Institute Phase V Leadership Development Tuition Scholarship. Dr. Jeter lectures nationally on how understanding the brain’s control of thought and behavior can improve academic and clinical performance.
Active research projects in the lab follow these themes:
Poor oral health in Parkinson’s disease contributes to aspiration pneumonia deaths
Up to 50% of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) die of aspiration pneumonia. The infection occurs when respiratory pathogens in the mouth are swallowed unintentionally into the trachea and ultimately the lungs. Thus, two main risk factors of aspiration pneumonia are poor oral health and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).
Patients with PD have worse oral health than age-matched healthy controls, and dysphagia affects 80% of patients with PD. Thus, after a diagnosis of dysphagia, patients with PD survive on average only for two years. The Jeter laboratory investigates how pathogenic oral bacteria and dysphagia contribute to aspiration pneumonia in PD. Knowing the answer will allow for targeted prevention, early diagnosis and decreased mortality rates.
Oral bacteria may serve as inflammatory triggers to accelerate Alzheimer’s disease
The neuropathology (brain changes) associated with Alzheimer’s disease includes aggregation of β-amyloid protein (Aβ) that is known to have anti-microbial properties, clearing bacteria from the brain. Studies show that microbial dysbiosis (pathological diversification of microbes) in the gut leads to both bacterial breach through the intestinal lining and increased inflammatory markers in blood.
The initiation of this cascade may be in the oral cavity, as periodontitis (infection of the structures connecting teeth and gums) in mid-life increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease in old age. Furthermore, oral pathogens and changes in the intestinal microbiota are causally linked, initiating systemic inflammation long before it is seen in the brain.
Whereas the role of neuroinflammation in central Aβ deposition is known, the impact of complex communication between the oral and gut microbiota on central Aβ aggregation has not been characterized. The Jeter laboratory examines the status of the oral and gut microenvironment as an early trigger for subsequent Aβ plaque formation and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, oral and gut bacteria may serve as an early predictive biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease and are controlled easily by oral hygiene and diet.
Access to quality healthcare empowers adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) have limited access to health care. This significant gap widens not only as these adults age, but also as their caregivers grapple with their own aging needs. We will create interdisciplinary health homes enabled by telehealth to reach all aging adults with IDD in Texas. The term health home does not mean a physical clinic, but rather a HIPAA-compliant virtual hub to access healthcare from a consistent core of providers trained in the health management of older adults with IDD. This project’s innovation is a preventive and wellness health home that supports self-determination and inclusion. Wherever you choose to live in Texas, your healthcare support stays with you.
Full publication list: