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2019 Winners Circle

From clockwise, Drs. Gillian Landzberg, Ariadne Letra, Muna Marashdeh, Karren Komitas

Karren Komitas

Dr. Karren Komitas is a periodontist. However, he has also been engaged with research focusing on the dental pulp for the past decade as both a master’s and Ph.D. student. Currently, Dr. Komitas is a faculty member at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston where his focus is developing translational research projects in the field of dental pulp regeneration in collaboration with the Department of Endodontics. His goal is to continue dental pulp research and identify emerging clinical areas that require evidence-based answers.

In his research project, The Role of Aging and Inflammation and the Effect of Enamel Matrix Derivative (EMD) on Dental Pulp Cells in Vitro, Dr. Komitas expects to demonstrate that the effects of EMD depend on a person’s age and the state of inflammation of the dental pulp tissue. Dr. Komitas says these findings are of significance to endodontics because by gaining insight into the age- and inflammation-dependent effects of EMD, the ability to enhance its clinical efficiency through improved case selection is increased. Speaking further about his interest in the topic, Dr. Komitas says that tissue regeneration is essential for the restoration of the lost tissues. Current research and clinical efforts have been dedicated to improving the outcomes of regenerative endodontic procedures using EMD. However, the evidence has demonstrated its limited efficiency in regenerative endodontic procedures.


Gillian Landzberg

Dr. Gillian Landzberg is a third-year endodontic resident at the University of Toronto where her interests in endodontic research stem from her own clinical experiences. “We are often limited in our abilities to help our patients by the tools and materials that are available to us,” says Dr. Landzberg. “With the development of novel materials, we can broaden the scope of what is possible and what is treatable in order to provide the best possible outcomes for our patients.”

Fractures in root-filled teeth pose a distinct challenge in endodontics, as there are few adequate treatment strategies. Dr. Landzberg’s research project, Self-Mineralizing Antibacterial Tissue Repair (SMART) Varnish to Condition Root-End Dentin in Endodontic Microsurgery aims to provide new hope for patients who wish to retain their natural teeth, even in compromised situations. The study will focus on developing and testing a novel varnish that utilizes the principle of biomineralization to seal the resected root end in endodontic microsurgery. In addition to self-mineralizing capabilities, this varnish possesses bioactivity and antimicrobial effects. Dr. Landzberg states that the ultimate goal of developing this varnish is not only to seal cracks, but also eliminate microbes in these regions while providing an optimal condition to promote healing post-surgery.

Providing patients with a high standard of care is a primary motivator for Dr. Landzberg. She loves endodontics because she feels it is a constant challenge, motivating her to become better each day. “One thing I look for in my work is to be challenged. I am interested in applying novel and creative methods to address clinical problems that have been largely considered untreatable.” When not in the lab Dr. Landzberg enjoys teaching and hopes to continue to participate in clinically relevant research activities in the future. She feels this is where she can contribute mpst to the advancement of endodontics.

Outside of her endodontics, Dr. Landzberg enjoys travelling, live music, and spending time with family and friends.


Muna Marashdeh

While pursuing her Ph.D. in biomaterials at the University of Toronto, Dr. Muna Marashdeh’s research investigated the physicochemical properties of root canal sealers and their interaction with dentin and pathogenic bacteria. Now, as a third-year endodontic resident, Dr. Marashdeh is elaborating on her Ph.D. project by trying to improve the antimicrobial and physical properties of root canal sealers.

Her project, Antimicrobial Efficacy and Physical properties of Root Canal Sealers Loaded with Drug-Silica Co-Assembled Particles investigates the ability of novel highly-loaded Drug-Silica Co-Assembled Particles (DSPs) to improve the antimicrobial properties of root canal sealers. When speaking about her project, funded by the foundation in fall of 2019, Dr. Marashdeh shared that nanoparticles are gaining popularity in the medical and dental fields due to the superior physicochemical properties when compared with their counterparts. The use of nanoparticles has been suggested for root canal disinfection and they can also be used as an irrigant or added to root canal medicaments and sealers.

Dr. Marashdeh feels that as endodontic materials and technologies advance, clinicians become more confident and outcomes become more predictable. “However,” she said, “even well-restored root canals might leak with time and be exposed to bacterial proliferation.” She hopes that, through her project, incorporating DSPs into root canal sealers will give the sealers prolonged antimicrobial properties, allowing them to prevent interfacial biofilm formation and proliferation and potentially increase the quality and effectiveness of endodontic treatment.

Outside of conducting research, Dr. Marashdeh considers herself a life-long learner and enjoys teaching and she enjoys spending her free time with her husband and children. Dr. Marashdeh is grateful to have the foundation’s support in her project, “It’s motivating to receive a research grant from the foundation. It encourages me to continue with my research projects and do all I can to contribute to our specialty.”


Ariadne Letra

Dr. Ariadne Letra is an associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston where she joined the School of Dentistry faculty in 2011 to be part of the school’s Center for Craniofacial Research.She also holds an adjunct faculty position atthe Department of Endodontics and at the Pediatric Research Center of UTHealth Medical School and the UT MDACC Graduate Schoolof Biomedical Sciences.Dr. Letra has lectured nationally and internationally on various topics and has published more than80 peer-reviewed manuscripts and two book chapters in the fields of craniofacial geneticsand endodontics.Prior to joining the UTHealth School of Dentistry, Dr. Letra did a postdoctoral fellowship and became an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine from 2006 to 2010.Outside of teaching and conducting research, Dr. Letra enjoys volunteering with the American Association of Endodontists as well as the Foundation for Endodontics. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and her two sons, being a ‘hockey mom’, traveling, and being with friends.