Jan Potempa, professor and academic scholar, Oral Health and Systemic Disease group, University of Louisville School of Dentistry, has helped change scientific thinking about the origin of periodontal tissue inflammation. The results of his research may lead to the development of more effective medication to combat periodontal disease, and therefore reduce the risk of heart disease and arthritis.
Potempa conducts his research both at UofL and at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. His discoveries have earned him the Foundation for Polish Science Prize in the field of life sciences. The foundation gives the prize annually to one Polish researcher for outstanding achievements or discoveries.
“The FNP Prize is regarded as the most prestigious of its kind in Poland, and we are so proud to have such a prominent researcher on our team,” said Donald Demuth, acting associate dean for research and enterprise, UofL School of Dentistry. “During his career, Jan’s work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the European Union. He has authored 278 publications and holds 11 patents.”
Potempa’s research deals with the role of the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis or P. gingivalis, in the formation and development of periodontal disease. He and his team isolated and identified seven protein-degrading enzymes produced by these bacteria – including the so-called gingipain enzymes.
He found that gingipain enzymes facilitate the development of gum tissue inflammation, underscoring their responsibility for hindering positive autoimmune reactions. Instead of eliminating the bacteria, they turn against the body’s own tissues. This leads to chronic inflammation of the gum tissue and to the destruction of gum and bone, causing tooth loss.
About the Foundation for Polish Science
The FNP is an independent, self-financing, nonprofit, non-governmental organization, with a mission of supporting science in Poland. It is the largest source of science funding in Poland outside the state budget.