Platelet signaling in chronic inflammation

Proper function of the immune system is essential for protection against infectious disease and maintaining human health. During the onset of infection, white blood cells and platelets release signaling molecules known as cytokines, which orchestrate a protective inflammatory response. When cytokine release is de-regulated, excessive inflammation causes cell and tissue death and loss of function. This is seen in gum disease (periodontitis), which is characterized by gum inflammation and destruction of tooth-supporting connective tissues and bone. This research will uncover the mechanisms responsible for maintaining the health of periodontal tissues.

Platelets, in addition to regulating blood clotting, are emerging as pivotal components of the inflammatory response. Dr. Kim and team will study how periodontal infection causes cytokine release from platelets, focusing on:

  1. How human platelets respond to periodontal infection and determine how platelet function correlates with clinical gum disease status.
  2. How the cell's structural framework mediates the release of cytokines from platelets.

An improved understanding of platelet function could have important implications for rational treatment of inflammatory diseases, including gum disease.