An accomplished researcher in the field of oral biology, Dr. Thomas Diekwisch of the University of Illinois at Chicago has extensively studied the makeup of human tooth enamel. In 2009, Dr. Thomas Diekwisch and his colleagues discovered a key amino acid that contributes to enamel resilience.
A study published in the journal PLOS Biology announced the identification of a proline repeat pattern that may account for the strength of human tooth enamel. The 2009 announcement came following in-depth analysis of the amino acids in the center of protein chains in tooth enamel. Researchers found that a particular amino acid repeats within these proteins and affects enamel strength based on the length of the repeat.
Researchers discovered that short proline repeats, such as those occurring in amphibian subjects, do not enable the organism to develop strong enamel crystals. Animals that do present with these crystals, which appear to provide the enamel with its characteristic strength, also have longer amino acid repeats. Researchers report that this finding may play a key role in the development of engineering strong and effective replacement tooth enamel for human patients, as well as possibly in the treatment of various neurodegenerative conditions.
Dr. Thomas Diekwisch, a noted educator and researcher in the field of oral biology, earned his D.M.D. and doctorates in anatomy and philosophy in Germany, completed a fellowship in craniofacial biology at the University of Southern California, and taught at the Baylor College of Dentistry in Texas. Dr. Diekwisch today is the head of the oral biology department at the College of Dentistry of the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as the director of the college’s Brodie Laboratory for Craniofacial Genetics.
The Brodie Lab was named for noted orthodontist Dr. Allan G. Brodie (1897-1976), who left an indelible mark on the university and the profession. He earned his dental degree in 1919 and began practice in 1920 in New Jersey. In 1925 and 1926, he studied at the Angle School of Orthodontics in California, under another luminary in the field, Dr. Edward Angle, often called the father of orthodontics. In 1929, after three more years of practice in New Jersey, he was called to Chicago to set up the University of Illinois’ graduate orthodontics department.
Highly accomplished, Dr. Brodie nevertheless found the time to earn both an MS and a PhD in anatomy from the university. His doctorate was the conclusion of his monumental work on the morphogenetic pattern of the human face from three months to eight years old, a work which at the time was considered a milestone in orthodontic research.
Dr. Brodie was one of the founders of the Angle Society of Orthodontists and served as its first secretary. He also belonged to several other professional associations for dentists and orthodontists. He headed the University of Illinois’ graduate orthodontics program from the time he established it until 1966, when he retired; he also served as dean of the university’s college of dentistry from 1944 until 1955.
Dr. T Diekwisch
The recipient of a DMD and two PhDs, Dr. Thomas Diekwisch applies his experience in dentistry at the University of Illinois (UIC) at Chicago’s Brodie Laboratory. Also the professor and head of the Department of Oral Biology at UIC, Dr. Thomas Diekwisch has performed groundbreaking research into epigenetics and chromatin.
Found in the cell’s nucleus, chromatin consists of DNA and proteins that turn into chromosomes during cell division. In 1999, the Brodie Laboratory cloned and sequenced the SRCAP chromatin complex member cp27 (now known as craniofacial development protein 1), which showed its importance in embryonic development, cell division, and transcription. Further research provided greater insight into this factor such as key regulators and transcription factors.
The Brodie Lab is continuing to understand the importance and development of chromatin, particularly in dental medicine. Its impact on early development has led to discoveries into how epigenetic components affect the differentiation of dental tissues. Looking at modifications of histones (or proteins in cell nuclei that convert DNA into nucleosomes), Brodie’s scientists identified a transition from active to repressive histones during periodontal differentiation. Another ongoing project involves researching how cp27 affects chromatin segregation and craniofacial syndromes.
Dr. Thomas Diekwisch
With two Ph.D. degrees, one in dentistry and other in philosophy, from the Philipps-University of Marburg, Germany, Thomas Diekwisch has collaborated with a number of institutes to develop new theories and research on craniofacial birth defects and graft materials that can support dental implants. Currently, Dr. Diekwisch is the director of the Brodie Laboratory for Craniofacial Genetics, where he explores molecular forms of tooth movement. In addition to his research about craniofacial development, Dr. Diekwisch also studies stem cells and tissue engineering.
One area of particular interest is the use of periodontal stem cells to repair and regrow damaged tissues and structures. An inflammation of supporting tissue can lead to tooth loss; traditional treatment of periodontitis involves surgical procedures focused on grafting materials and growth factors. However, more recent developments in the field of guided tissue regeneration have focused on regeneration using stem cells. Although early studies have shown that predictable periodontal growth is a challenge, current studies conducted at the Brodie Laboratory have shown that growing periodontium around extracted teeth and replanting them is a promising avenue of research.
Dr. Tom Diekwisch
As director of the Brodie Laboratory for Craniofacial Genetics, Thomas Diekwisch focuses on stem cells, epigenetics, and chromatin remodeling as they relate to dental work and jaw development. Additionally, Dr. Diekwisch serves as a professor and department head at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Dentistry, where he introduces students and faculty to the latest technology. The technology and research Dr. Diekwisch conducts at the Brodie Laboratory includes enamel formation and evolution, and orthodontics and tooth movement.
Produced during the second stage of tooth formation, enamel is independent of dentin, a calcified tissue that must be present to support the more fragile enamel layer. Called amelogenesis, the formation of enamel can be affected in several ways, either through genetics or by environmental factors. One of these, the intake of excessive fluoride, can give the enamel opaque white striations or a porous, discolored surface, depending on the severity. Currently, studies are underway at the Brodie Laboratory to study the factors of the elongation and nucleation of the enamel crystals, which influences how strong and porous the resulting enamel will be.
Thomas Diekwisch, DMD, graduated summa cum laude from the Philipps University of Marburg in the area of Anatomy and magna cum laude from the same University in the area of Philosophy. Tom Diekwisch completed his Ph.D. studies in philosophy with one of Germany’s pre-eminent science philosophers, Professor Peter Janich from the University of Marburg. Janich is one of the fathers of methodical culturalism, a development of the constructivist philosophy of the Erlangen school of philosophy.
As a student of Janich, Diekwisch focused on the impact of science culture in modern molecular biology and how science cultural approaches affect our understanding of the mind-body problem. The approach of methodical culturalism was carried over into two history of science publications related to the model system of the un-opposed molar (Holliday et al. 2005, Luan et al. 2007). Diekwisch also contributed to a commemorative article in honor of Wolf-Ernst Reif (Smith et al. 2013).
After spending nearly a decade as an assistant professor at the Baylor College of Dentistry, Thomas Diekwisch, DMD, assumed the position of department head and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry in 2001. At the school’s Brodie Laboratory, Dr. Diekwisch conducts research in various areas of periodontics.
The Brodie Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry has published a number of important papers in the field of periodontics. In 2001, the lab put out a piece on the mesenchymal origin of cementum. This paper marked the dental industry’s first publication with an explicit focus on the movements of neural crest tissues throughout the formation of the periodontium.
Five years later, the lab published a paper that announced the discovery of diverse progenitor populations for dental follicles. These progenitors, the paper stated, could lead to the sudden development of several types of periodontal tissues. In 2006, the lab also published an analysis of Hertwig’s epithelial root sheath as it pertains to the development of tooth roots. More recently, the lab has studied the use of surface topography imaging as a tool for facilitating tooth replantation.