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Jeter Laboratory

UTHealth School of Dentistry Research Labs

Overview

Changes in the brain from neurodegeneration include aggregation of protein and inflammation. Microbial dysbiosis (pathological diversification of gut microbes) leads to both bacterial breach through the intestinal lining and increased inflammatory markers in systemic blood. The initiation of this cascade may be in the oral cavity, as periodontitis (infection of the structures around the teeth and gums) in mid-life increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease later. Our current focus is on the impact of complex communication between the oral and gut microbiota and subsequent protein aggregation in the brain.

Neurodegeneration also can cause swallowing dysfunctions that allow food, drink or saliva into the air passages rather than into the stomach. If aspiration leads to bacterial infection of the lungs or large airways, aspiration pneumonia can result. Indeed, aspiration pneumonia afflicts half of patients with Parkinson’s disease and is their leading cause of mortality, accounting for up to 70% of deaths.

Microorganisms grow as biofilms on both the hard tissues (teeth) and soft tissues (tongue, gums, inner cheek) of the oral cavity. These communities, known collectively as the oral microbiota, during health are commensal and symbiotic with the host, but they can shift to opportunistic and hostile.

Our lab has found that oral microbiome composition correlates with dysphagia severity in Parkinson’s disease. Understanding shifts in the oral microbiome may lead to the development of diagnostic biomarkers for early dysphagia and disease progression. If identified early, patients at risk of dysphagia can be taught techniques to encourage safe swallowing.

Projects

  • Oral bacteria may serve as inflammatory triggers to accelerate Alzheimer’s disease

    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

    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.

  • Poor oral health in Parkinson's disease contributes to aspiration pneumonia deaths

    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.

Lab Team

Cameron B. Jeter, PhD
Associate Professor
Cameron.B.Jeter@uth.tmc.edu
713-486-4427
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Natalia Rozas, PhD
Research Assistant II
natalia.s.rozas@uth.tmc.edu
713-486-4427
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Jordyn Stanek, BS
Research Technician
jordyn.a.stanek@uth.tmc.edu


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Nicole Stephens, BS, GSBS
Graduate Research Student
nicole.stephens@uth.tmc.edu


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Key Publications

Rozas NS, Sadowsky JM, Stanek JA, * Jeter CB. Oral Health Assessment by Lay Personnel for Older Adults. Journal of Visualized Experiments. Feb 2;(156), e60553, 2020. * Jeter CB, Rozas NS, Sadowsky JM, Jones DJ. Parkinson’s disease oral health: interprofessional coordination of care. MedEdPORTAL 2018;14:10699. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.10699

Rozas NR, Sadowsky JS, Jones DJ, * Jeter CB. Incorporating oral health into interprofessional care teams for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders. 43:9-14, 2017.

Rozas NR, Sadowsky JS, * Jeter CB. Strategies to improve dental health in elderly patients with cognitive impairment: a systematic review. Journal of the American Dental Association. 148(4):236-245, 2017.

News

Featured

Eureka: How link between oral health and overall health became personal

Feature Image

At first, neurons and saliva seemed worlds apart to Associate Professor Cameron B. Jeter, PhD. A brain scientist by training, she studied traumatic brain injury and neurological disorders like Tourette syndrome at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, where she earned an appointment to the school’s faculty.

Announcements

Cameron Jeter is one of the many faces at UTHealth


Jeter presents at inaugural Colgate Clinical Research Innovation Day


Podcasts

Jeter interviewed on Fifty+ Radio Show (minute 7:00-17:35) https://www.spreaker.com/user/9808690/50-plus-06119

Jeter interviewed on Parkinson Foundation podcast https://www.parkinson.org/Living-with-Parkinsons/Resources-and-Support/Podcast/047-Practicing-Oral-Health-Care-Parkinsons

Lab Photos

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