August 9, 2018
Dr. Anne George, the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry’s Allan G. Brodie Endowed Professor, and professor of oral biology, has been selected as a UIC University Scholar. The University Scholars Program honors faculty members for superior research and teaching, along with great promise for future achievements. The award provides $15,000 per year for three years. She will receive it later this year.
“The fact that I was nominated for this award by my peers and selected from a group of extremely talented nominees make me feel really humbled,” George said. “The $15,000 will be highly beneficial for the research operation within the lab. Research is a costly affair and this will benefit the students in the lab in carrying out experiments that require additional resources.”
George’s research focuses on regenerative science, biomaterials, bioengineering, and stem cell biology. She is the director of the college’s Brodie Tooth Development Genetics and Regenerative Medicine Research Laboratory.
The research of George and her team on the role of the gene Dentin Matrix Protein 1 (DMP1) in bone metabolism could lead to a new way of filling oral caries. They are studying how proteins can regenerate dentin, a calcified tissue of the body that, along with enamel, cementum, and pulp, is one of the four major components of teeth.
George has been instrumental in cloning dentin matrix protein genes (DMPs) from the mineralized dentin matrix of animal models, and she is working towards dentists filling cavities with DMP1, which would allow dentin to regenerate.
Formation of calcified tissues is a well-regulated process balanced by promoters and inhibitors of biomineralization. Interruption of this balance in bone, dentin and other mineralized tissues results in a wide range of pathologic conditions.
"My lab has been instrumental in identifying a family of dentin matrix protein that is involved in bone and dentin mineralization," said Dr. George. "Overall, our goal is to elucidate the biological strategies used by nature in biomineralization."
Her lab's research focuses on biomineralization are from the perspectives of dentistry, as in dentin regeneration; of basic research, as in understanding the role of proteins in forming a calcified tissue; and lastly, translational research, as in development of biomineralization related protein-based biomaterials for bone and dentin regeneration.
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“Getting this award is beneficial for the College as it highlights the College’s research enterprise,” she said. “As the selection is made by a committee that consists of members from different colleges in the university, it clearly demonstrates the high quality research enterprise happening at the College of Dentistry.”
George’s colleagues and students are pleased at the university’s recognition of her.
“I have had Dr. George as a mentor for several years, and now as a colleague,” said Dr. Sriram Ravindran, assistant professor, Oral Biology. “She has always been a pleasant person to work with, with a strong commitment to research.”
Elizabeth Guirado, a student in George’s lab, agreed. “She is always available,” Guirado said. “She is always enthusiastic about our projects and loves it when we show our own enthusiasm. She allows us to be independent, yet is ready to contribute her knowledge and experience at any time.”
Dr. George's advice to students who want to focus their future careers on research:
"Research is fun as it is a discovery process; however, there are frustrations along the way. It is a bittersweet experience. Perseverance and patience should be the goal to combat frustration, and at the end of the day, it will be a successful and satisfying experience."
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“Her work on biomineralization and the role of ECM [extracellular matrix] proteins such as DMP1 on nucleation of minerals to form bone and dentin solves many aspects of how complex structures such as teeth and bones are formed in nature and provides vital clues to enable control of these processes for human intervention to enhance repair and regeneration,” Ravindran noted.
“Dentin formation, in particular, holds a lot of information about the regulation of biomineralization,” Guirado said. “Understanding this regulation more thoroughly will allow us to target degenerative diseases of the bone and craniofacial complex more efficiently.”
Ravindran said, “I feel happy for her, and honored to be her mentee.”
“Our faculty, exemplified here by Dr. Anne George, are talented researchers, mentors, and teachers,” said Dr. Lyndon Cooper, associate dean for research and head of oral biology.
“Anne is internationally known for her pioneering work in protein regulation of biomineralization and regeneration,” Cooper continued. “It is gratifying to see her recognized campus-wide for her efforts here in the College of Dentistry and the broader UIC community. With this award, we look forward to her leading UIC research faculty to greater successes in biomineralization and regenerative sciences.”
“This recognition represents the fruits of very hard work,” Guirado concluded. “The field poses many challenges and she has been very successful at tackling them. She truly deserves this recognition.”
“Success to me is gauged when the students and trainees who leave the portals of my lab succeed in clinical, academic, and scientific arenas,” George said. “I have been highly fortunate to have great students and trainees who are enthusiastic and receptive to scientific questions and try to discover and understand the process of biomineralization.”
"Each day we try to unravel the mechanisms involved in understanding this process and we realize that a big chunk of the iceberg lies beneath the surface. It is this unknown that keeps us going,” added Dr. George.
The Brodie Professorship and Brodie Laboratory are named for the late Dr. Allan G. Brodie Sr., a former head of the Department of Orthodontics and dean of the college, and were created through generous gifts from the Brodie family’s Willow Springs Foundation.