Periodontitis, an inflammation of the gums that can lead to tooth loss, is more frequent in Asia than in Western industrialized countries. One study from the Ministry of Health of Malaysia reported that 18% of the Malaysian population has been diagnosed with severe periodontitis.1 However, the risk of developing periodontitis is complicated. Another study has determined that susceptibility and severity are dependent on a series of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.2
To further address the growing health concern over periodontitis, researchers from the University of Malaya, the Universiti Teknologi MARA and the Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, along with periodontists from the Ministry of Health of Malaysia, formed a partnership to further periodontal research through the sharing of ideas, data and biospecimens. This led to the creation of a biobank in 2011. Vaithilingam et al. describe how this partnership implemented the Malaysian Periodontal Database and Biobank System (MPDBS).3
Despite the high frequency of periodontitis among Malaysians, there has been little clinical research to date. To fulfill this need, the MPDBS was designed to maximize efficiency and ensure that biospecimens and data are banked, stored and defined systematically. They explain that without a biorepository of samples in place, it may be difficult for independent research groups to find enough samples for their experiments.
The partnership of investigators focused on four research questions related to genetic polymorphisms that could be explored through future projects. The initial goal of the MPDBS was to collect 300 diseased and 300 control biosamples. They collected the samples from individuals with severe periodontitis and healthy controls using a validated classification system.
In all research ventures, the inability to find funding can halt progress. Therefore, to cut costs, the MPDBS shared facilities with the Malaysian Oral Cancer Database and Tissue Bank System while still overseeing its own specimen processing and storing and data management. The MPDBS was also supported through a research grant under the Ministry of Education Malaysia.
To date, there have been five research projects initiated because of the MPDBS, and the bank is also contributing samples for ongoing studies on microbiological and immunological aspects of chronic periodontitis in healthy and obese subjects. Future plans of this research group include genome-wide association studies to validate and identify genetic polymorphisms in aggressive and chronic periodontitis.
This team of researchers maintains that periodontal research is ideal for global collaborations. To ensure progress is made, they recommend investigators stay within guidelines such as the Montreal Statement on Research Integrity in Cross-Boundary Research Collaborations to ensure all ethical issues are addressed before samples can cross borders, thereby furthering and enhancing research.
1. Oral Health Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia (2012). National Oral Health Survey of Adults 2010 (NOHSA 2010): Initial findings (Unweighted data).
2. Offenbacher, S., Barros, S.P., and Beck, J.D. (2008) “Rethinking periodontal inflammation,” Journal of Periodontology, 79(8) (pp.1577–1584).
3. Vaithilingam, R.D., et al. (2014) “Establishing and managing a periodontal biobank for research: The sharing of experience,” Oral Diseases, doi:10.1111/odi.12267.