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Lynne Opperman - May 2012

Lynne Opperman, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M Health Science Center, Baylor College of Dentistry. She is also the director of technology development at the university. She earned her B.Sc. in zoology and psychology and her Ph.D. in developmental biology from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia.

Her main area of research is to elucidate the mechanisms by which growth factors regulate cranial and facial suture morphogenesis and patency. She examines the mechanisms by which signaling pathways interact to regulate suture morphogenesis and patency. The growth factors of interest include Tgf-ß2, Tgf-ß3, Egf and Fgf.

Opperman also studies alternate methods for accelerating bone formation and healing. She does translational research looking at combinations of scaffolds and growth factors for healing super-sized critical defects, and for accelerating consolidation periods following sutural widening and distraction osteogenesis procedures.

She has a fully executed patent and a patent pending for a new bone transport reconstruction plate (BTRP).  The BTRP is designed to reconstruct the mandible after bony resection, and the curved version of the device is designed to reconstruct the chin by transporting a bone segment across the midline of the jaw or by transporting two bone segments on either side of a gap to meet in the midline. She co-owns a small business (Craniotech ACR Devices, LLC) and has been awarded several STTR and SBIR grants to build and test prototypes of the device.

Opperman has been an IADR/AADR member since 1997 and has served as the president and councilor of the AADR Dallas Section. In addition, she has served on the board of directors of the IADR Craniofacial Biology Scientific Group, and was president of this group from 2007-2008.

How important has AADR been in your career?
Being an active member of AADR and serving on the board of the IADR Craniofacial Biology Scientific Group has helped raise my national profile. Having that kind of experience is valuable and meeting people through that Scientific Group has been remarkable.

What are you currently researching?
I have a sponsored research project that I’m doing for a small startup company in Dallas called Natural Dental Implants. The project involves a new kind of implant that is a true root-form implant. We are doing the pre-clinical studies and testing to see how well the implants get osseointegrated. What’s neat about these implants is that they actually have splints on them that bond to the teeth on either side of the extracted tooth sockets so that you can immediately place this root-form implant into the socket to give the it primary stability. I think it’s going to be a phenomenal product.

Where do you feel the research community would be without AADR’s influence?
I don’t think the community would be as well organized. I think AADR gives dental researchers a venue to network, and provides us with the advocacy we need. It’s really important for us researchers to have our own organization and that organization is AADR.

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
The advice I give is find your passion. It may be as an academic, or as an industry entrepreneur building and creating new devices or procedures. Most of my students are very close to the dental profession and it would behoove them to stay in a dental-related field. I encourage them to follow their passion in terms of what excites them. It’s also important to have a good mentor and many AADR members serve as excellent role models for students and junior investigators. In my experience as a post-doc student, I had two mentors. My experiences with them taught me a lot, and made me very cognizant of how I treat my students and other faculty members. That has paid off.

Previous Article Raul I. Garcia - April 2012
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