USC University of Southern California

Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC

Areas of Emphasis

Addressing Society’s Needs

At the core of all of the research endeavors at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC are the goals of improving human health and meeting societal needs. With that in mind, groups of researchers have formed around critical fields of study.These areas of emphasis include:

Craniofacial Development

Malformations of the head, face or neck are involved in three-fourths of all congenital birth defects in humans. Ostrow is at the forefront of biomedical research in this area through interdisciplinary and collaborative research by evolutionary and development biologists, human geneticists, computer modelers and tissue engineers.

Faculty Leaders: Malcolm Snead, Yang Chai, Michael Paine, Janet Moradian-Oldak, Mark Urata, Yan Zhou, Matthew Lee, Stephen Yen, Tina Jaskoll, Michael Melnick, Pragna Patel, Amy Merrill, Ruchi Bajpai

Microbial Infections

Bacteria tend to form and thrive in communities known as biofilms — concentrated bacterial clusters that attach to the surface and become embedded in a wide variety of polymeric matrix such as plaque on the surface of the teeth. These biofilms are responsible for a wide variety of disease, not only in the oral cavity, but throughout the body. Ostrow researchers are leading major investigations aimed at reducing these persistent infections through early diagnosis, new antibiotic delivery mechanisms and disrupting biofilm formation.

Faculty Leaders: Casey Chen, Parish Sedghizadeh

Tooth & Tissue Restoration

Few people go through life without losing a tooth or suffering trauma to the mouth and surrounding orofacial tissue. Ostrow researchers are creating new methods to repair and replace damaged tissue. Craniofacial development experts are investigating methods for regenerating teeth using the patient’s own stem cells, while others are looking at producing new tissue, such as enamel, through an understanding of the molecular mechanisms that lead to their creation.

Faculty Leaders: Malcolm Snead, Janet Moradian-Oldak, Michael Paine, George Cho, Winston Chee, Pascal Magne, Sillas Duarte, Jin-Ho Phark


In the United States alone, 30,000 people will learn they have cancer of the mouth or neck, and about half will not survive beyond five years. Surgery to remove the disease often is extensive, leaving the patient permanently disfigured. Early diagnosis is the key to survival and mitigating the cancer’s severity. Ostrow researchers are investigating ways to improve diagnosis and understand the pathogenesis or factors contributing to its development. Others are examining ways to reduce tissue destruction during surgery and replace damaged or lost tissue.

Faculty Leaders: Parish Sedghizadeh, Jiang (John) Zhong

Health Promotion & Disease Prevention

Ostrow has a long tradition of working with the communities in the Los Angeles area and the state of California. Research projects are underway to understand how to encourage family unity and community commitment to learn good oral health practices, increase access to dental care and improve how dentists communicate with their patients. Techniques being tested include patient and health care provider consultation, education, focus groups and development of exciting new tools for personal skill development, building partnerships and re-orienting health services. Faculty are using Internet-based learning tools based on sophisticated game theory to speed learning and improve memory, as well as bioengineered haptic devices to enable users to actually feel what is happening on the computer screen.

Faculty Leaders: Roseann Mulligan, Reyes Enciso, Jane Forrest, Glenn Clark, Saravanan Ram, Donna Smith