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John D. Bartlett - February 2013

John D. Bartlett, M.S., Ph.D., is a senior member of staff and chair of the department of mineralized tissue biology at The Forsyth Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is also an associate professor in the department of developmental biology at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts. Bartlett earned his B.A. in biology/psychology from Ohio Wesleyan University, his M.S. in microbiology from the University of New Hampshire and his Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from the University of Vermont.

Bartlett has focused his research on understanding dental enamel development. The Bartlett research group discovered the first proteinase secreted into the enamel matrix and named it enamelysin (matrix metalloproteinase-20, MMP20). He published about the events leading to the discovery of MMP20 in an article titled “Making the Cut in Dental Enamel—The Discovery of Enamelysin (MMP-20)” (J Dent Res. 2005 84(11):986-988, 2005).  In addition, he has authored a chapter on MMP20 for the Handbook on Proteolytic Enzymes (Amsterdam: Elsevier Academic Press; 835-840, 2013). The Bartlett laboratory also co-discovered the only other proteinase known to reside in dental enamel. This proteinase was originally named “enamel matrix serine proteinase-1”, but was subsequently renamed kallikrein-related peptidiase-4 (KLK4).
A second focus of Bartlett’s research group is to understand the molecular events that cause dental fluorosis. Bartlett has published a novel theory on the molecular mechanisms that cause dental fluorosis (PLoS ONE 5(5):e10895, 2010). Recently, the Bartlett group began investigating the cell-cell interactions that are required for healthy enamel formation.
Excluding abstracts, Bartlett has published more than 90 peer-reviewed papers, reviews and book chapters. In 2009, Bartlett was president of the IADR Mineralized Tissue Scientific Group and in 2012 he was the recipient of the IADR Distinguished Scientist Award for Basic Research in Biological Mineralization. He has been an AADR member since 1995.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
It’s important to work together with people who have a firm view of an area that you think might be significant to your research and the collaborations with the people I’ve met through AADR is the most valuable benefit. The first time I met my now co-author Charlie Smith (McGill University) was at an AADR Annual Meeting. That initial meeting has blossomed into a really healthy collaboration. We just finished writing a review article on MMP and cell attachment [Bartlett JD and Smith CE (2013) Modulation of cell-cell junctional complexes by matrix metalloproteinases. J Dent Res. 92(1):10-17.]
What is an advantage of attending an AADR Annual Meeting?
Attending the AADR Annual Meeting presents an opportunity for AADR members to meet people on a somewhat informal basis and learn about their research. The meetings are a nice place to establish connections and that’s something I really enjoy about attending the Annual Meetings.
As someone who has been active in an IADR Scientific Group, why is it essential for other AADR/IADR members to join a group and actively participate?
It’s really important for members to be part of IADR Scientific Groups because the groups are a microcosm of the research that we perform. Joining one is a way of finding people who have similar interests with whom you can share ideas and make strong collaborations.
Where do you feel the research community would be without AADR and its advocacy efforts?
I think it’s essential to have advocacy. I’ve been involved with the advocacy efforts and I’ve written letters to my representatives to show the importance of dental research. Not everyone has a clear understanding of periodontal diseases or enamel defects and how they can devastate a family. I’ve seen young children who have enamel defects and they are teased at school, which is psychologically detrimental to their self image and their learning. Advocacy is especially important for the dental research world and people need to understand the importance of the research.
What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
The message I would give to future dental researchers is be persistent because you’re always going to experience tough times. Another thing is to be honest. If you get a result and it doesn’t follow through with your hypothesis, then you need to think about changing your hypothesis. Also, it’s important to remember that humility will help to establish collaborations that can take your research further.


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