Student NameDaniel Escalante
Faculty Mentor NameDev, Ranjit, PhD
CollegeCollege of Dentistry
MajorMicrobiology and Cell Sciences
Research InterestsIndividualized Medicine, Immunobiology, Plant Breeding, Plant Specialized Metabolites, Computational Genetics, Sexual Reproductive Mechanisms in Plants, Phytopathology
Academic AwardsHispanic Scholarship Fund 2019, Florida Academic Scholar 2019, Freshman Honors Program 2019, UF International Scholar 2020, University Honors Program 2020, National Physique Committee - State Bodybuilding Teen Division 1st Place 2020, UF President's Honor Roll 2020, Emerging Scholars Program 2021
OrganizationsOrganic and Sustainable Agriculture Club, UF Chapter Doctor's Without Borders, President of National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Science Honor Society, Philosophy Society, Student Honors Organization, Microbiology Club, Chemistry Club, UF Cycling Team
VolunteeringMobility Worldwide, Gleaning, Family Smiles Dentistry, Orange Park Medical Center, The Way Free Clinic, Levenson Eye Associates, St. Vincent's Urgent Care
Hobbies and InterestsBodybuilding, Botany, Cinematography, Cycling, Nutrition, and Swimming

Research Project

Impact of Galactose-Containing Disaccharides on the Growth and Morphology of Porphyromonas gingivalis

The oral mouth cavity hosts several types of bacteria including Porphyromonas gingivalis, a pathogen known to cause a wide range of periodontal inflammatory diseases such as chronic periodontitis. Not only is chronic periodontitis medically significant because it is a painful disease, but because it is linked to more serious chronic health complications such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This bacterium is an asaccharolytic, gram-negative anaerobe that takes advantage of the host’s immune response, completely evading it. The human diet consists of a vast array of complex and simple compounds such as proteins and sugars that play a pivotal role in the oral microbiome. Even though this bacterium is asaccharolytic, it uses saccharides for complex carbohydrate structures that are exported to the cellular membrane. These membrane-bound structures have been identified as key virulent determinants of P. gingivalis. In Dr. Davey’s laboratory at UF College of Dentistry, galactose was observed to cause transcriptional changes in genes associated with cell shape and general stress response in P. gingivalis. Galactose substantially altered the physiology of P. gingivalis through the production of large, unidentified granules. Growth inhibitors of P. gingivalis are expected to have practical medicinal uses as effective treatment therapies in the spectrum of periodontal disease. Such finding may allude to a specialized structural importance that galactose might have in the inhibition of P. gingivalis growth. The purpose of this study therefore is to determine the efficacy of galactose-containing disaccharides in P. gingivalis growth inhibition. This study will examine lactose, lactulose, melibiose, and melibiulose, and their effect on the growth and morphology of P. gingivalis. This research will be conducted by utilizing light microscopy, growth curves, and electron microscopy. A biochemical approach will be utilized to detect carbohydrate molecules to understand the role of galactose-containing disaccharides. The growth inhibition will be studied by utilizing chemically defined medium which contains nutrient-limited components to observe the significance on bacterial growth characteristics. Due to galactose’s effect on the growth and morphology of P. gingivalis, it is hypothesized that the structurally similar, galactose-containing disaccharides will also impact the growth and morphology of P. gingivalis. Through this study, a clearer understanding of how P. gingivalis respond to special nutrition and environmental fluctuations will be achieved. Determining the inhibition efficacy of galactose-containing disaccharides, some of which are commonly found in the human diet, will pave the path for future research in unveiling the molecular mechanisms driving galactose as a growth disruptor in this asaccharolytic bacterium. With a better understanding, the progression towards periodontal disease will be more defined, allowing for the development of novel preventative therapies.