Russell Taichman - August 2012
Russell Taichman, D.M.D., D.M.Sc., is a professor of dentistry at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and the co-director of the university’s Scholars Program in Dental Leadership. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, since 1992.
Taichman earned a B.S. from Villanova University, a D.M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and a D.M.Sc. from Harvard University, where he also earned a certificate in periodontics. He also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.
His research focus is in identifying the molecular mechanisms that relate to how the bone marrow functions in both health and disease with a particular interest in the osteoblast-hematopoietic stem cell interface and how these interactions are co-opted by tumors. His research team was the first to describe that osteoblasts (the endosteal or osteoblastic stem cell niche) support the adhesion, survival, and expansion of early human hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in vitro. In a related area of interest his team has identified mesenchymal stem/progenitor cells in a prospective manor by FACS – Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting and have demonstrated their ability to function as stem cells in vivo. A third focus is on solid tumor metastases. Taichman’s research has also led the way in demonstrating that prostate cancers (PCa) metastasize to the bone marrow using the same pathways that HSCs use, namely the CXCR4/CXCL12 pathway. His recent work has focused on how PCa cells specifically target the HSC niche during metastasis, and proposed studies focus on the identification of cancer stem cells.
Taichman has been an AADR member since 1987, and has served on several IADR and AADR committees. He currently serves on the AADR Annual Session Committee.
Why did you decide to go into dentistry?
My father (AADR member Norton Taichman) is an academic dentist. I found the lifestyle, the conversations that he and his colleagues engaged in, and purpose of his work important and intriguing. I liked what I saw and I wanted to be part of it.
What motivated you to join AADR?
I joined AADR because it was an opportunity for me to connect with colleagues. I’ve learned that my most successful science has occurred when we have cross fertilization. AADR is a natural venue for people like me to engage in that opportunity. It has been a really cool thing to attend AADR meetings and talk to people in a setting that is different than my everyday life. The interactions have been very positive for me.
How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
It is absolutely crucial that we look at science in a collaborative fashion, and we borrow, learn from and collaborate with people in other fields. The concepts that are developed from looking across disciplines are critical in terms of making scientific advances. Cross collaborating with other fields enriches the intellectual atmosphere.
How do you feel about AADR’s advocacy role and what it’s doing to further the field?
If we are going to make major advances in our treatment of patients and the understanding of the processes involved, we need to be able to advocate for funding and relevance. There are very few organizations that are pushing those agendas for oral health. AADR is one of the prime movers in that arena.
What is a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
It’s important for them to follow their passion and work in areas that are relevant to that passion. They should try to maintain a wide focus rather than a narrow focus in the science, and importantly, look for opportunities that push boundaries.