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Crit Rev Oral Biol Med. 2003;14(6):430-49.

Genes and gene polymorphisms associated with periodontal disease.

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University of Louisville School of Dentistry, Louisville, KY 40292, USA.


The scientific literature during the last ten years has seen an exponential increase in the number of reports claiming links for genetic polymorphisms with a variety of medical diseases, particularly chronic immune and inflammatory conditions. Recently, periodontal research has contributed to this growth area. This new research has coincided with an increased understanding of the genome which, in turn, has permitted the functional interrelationships of gene products with each other and with environmental agents to be understood. As a result of this knowledge explosion, it is evident that there is a genetic basis for most diseases, including periodontitis. This realization has fostered the idea that if we can understand the genetic basis of diseases, genetic tests to assess disease risk and to develop etiology-based treatments will soon be reality. Consequently, there has been great interest in identifying allelic variants of genes that can be used to assess disease risk for periodontal diseases. Reports of genetic polymorphisms associated with periodontal disease are increasing, but the limitations of such studies are not widely appreciated. While there have been dramatic successes in the identification of mutations responsible for rare genetic conditions, few genetic polymorphisms reported for complex genetic diseases have been demonstrated to be clinically valid, and fewer have been shown to have clinical utility. Although geneticists warn clinicians on the over-enthusiastic use and interpretation of their studies, there continues to be a disparity between the geneticists and the clinicians in the emphasis placed on genes and genetic polymorphism associations. This review critically reviews genetic associations claimed for periodontal disease. It reveals that, despite major advances in the awareness of genetic risk factors for periodontal disease (with the exception of periodontitis associated with certain monogenetic conditions), we are still some way from determining the genetic basis of both aggressive and chronic periodontitis. We have, however, gained considerable insight into the hereditary pattern for aggressive periodontitis. Related to our understanding that it is autosomal-dominant with reduced penetrance comes a major clinically relevant insight into the risk assessment and screening for this disease, in that we appreciate that parents, offspring, and siblings of patients affected with aggressive periodontitis have a 50% risk of this disease also. Nevertheless, we must exercise caution and proper scientific method in the pursuit of clinically valid and useful genetic diagnostic tests for chronic and aggressive periodontitis. We must plan our research using plausible biological arguments and carefully avoid the numerous bias and misinterpretation pitfalls inherent in researching genetic associations with disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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