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James M. Rogér - March 2012

James M. Rogér, D.D.S., M.S., is the senior instructor of dentistry at the Center for Oral Biology at the University of Rochester Eastman Institute for Oral Health. He has been an instructor there since 2008.

Rogér earned his D.D.S. from Marquette University School of Dentistry, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He earned his M.S. from the University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he is currently working toward his Ph.D.

In 2007, he was awarded a Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation Fellowship to study cytokine production by peripheral B-Cells in primary Sjögren's Syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus. He conducted this research under the mentorship of Ignacio Sanz, a rheumatologist at the University of Rochester. Since then, he has continued under the mentorship of Sanz and is currently researching the characterization of human cytokine-producing B cells in Sj?gren's Syndrome.

Rogér has been an active AADR member since 2004 and currently serves on the Association’s Government Affairs Committee. His research has been published in the IADR/AADR Journal of Dental Research.

How did you first get involved in AADR?
As a first-year dental student at Temple University, I assumed lab research would be included in the dental curriculum. However, when I realized that wasn’t the case I approached the dean at Temple University and asked him if anyone was doing dental research and if there were opportunities for me to get involved in research. He suggested that I participate in an NIDCR program, which was a one-day exposé of research and dentistry at the NIDCR campus. At that event, I met some of the AADR National Student Research Group officers who told me about AADR and the NSRG, and the benefits of being involved in AADR. From there, I joined AADR and the NSRG, becoming a board member of the NSRG as a member-at-large. The next year I became the president of the NSRG and sat on the AADR Board of Directors.

What are you currently researching?
In the lab where I work, we are really interested in the impact of B cells and antibody independent functions of B cells. From the oral health perspective there are a number of autoimmune diseases that the lab focuses on and one of those is Sj?gren's Syndrome. I’ve found Sj?gren's Syndrome interesting and what is so unfortunate about it is that there really is no treatment for it other than palliative care to give people the ability to cope with it but not improve their condition. There are so many people affected by that particular disease that I thought this would be an interesting way to look at and see if there is some unique feature or unique signature about the B cells within the antibody independent functions and the way they contribute to the disease. Specifically looking at the comparisons between regulatory cytokines and cytokines that are considered more pro-inflammatory or potentially even pathogenic that ultimately may even be contributing to the hyper-immune and autoimmune states. The question we’re looking to answer is the B cells functioning in a different manner in Sj?gren's versus healthy state. If they are, we want to know if it’s in a way that is consistent with the idea that this is a hyper-immune or hyper-inflammatory state, and then are they directly contributing to the disease. If the answer is that they the B cells are in fact contributing some potential pathogenic properties, then there are treatments available right now to deplete the number of these cells or potentially target these cells and remove the bad ones. This project has been going well, and it has been funded over the past four years and supported by my mentor Ignacio Sanz.

How important has cross-collaborating with other scientific disciplines been to the success of your career?
My mentor, Ignacio Sanz, is rheumatologist M.D., which is where the autoimmune side enters, I’m a dental researcher, and the group and people with whom we work tend to deal with dry mouth and dry eyes, and clinicians who are treating patients. My current research would be a difficult project to do from the oral health perspective because I wouldn’t have access to particular samples and a rheumatologist doesn’t get to look at the mouth very often—the collaborative aspect is really the only way this project could go forward. My research doesn’t just happen in that little vacuum space. I have to bring in other experts if I want to find something that is actually going to impact Sjögren's Syndrome or lead to potential treatment.

How important has AADR been to your career as a researcher?
Without AADR there is no way that I would be at this level in my career. AADR was huge in educating me on the different ways to apply my dentistry and use that to launch my dental research career. AADR has helped keep me aware of the types of grants and funding support for which I could apply to make a research career and the necessary training more feasible. The Association has enabled me to follow through on dental research as a career, which was my goal.
Previous Article Athanasios I. Zavras - February 2012
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