The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
School of Dentistry
Department of Endodontics
Dr. Letra is a dentist and specializes in Endodontics, with clinical and research expertise in craniofacial genetics and molecular biology. The main focus of our research is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying human complex birth defects, particularly cleft lip/palate and dental anomalies, and other complex oral traits. Using sophisticated genetic analysis, Dr. Letra’s studies aim to identify gene variants that may contribute to these conditions in humans. Moreover, Dr. Letra’s lab uses functional assays to investigate the biological effects underlying these gene variants in vivo and in vitro, in an attempt to further understand a given gene’s role in the aforementioned conditions. Previous work from Dr. Letra’s lab showed that variants in the promoter of the matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP3) gene are associated with predisposition to cleft lip/palate in humans, and that the presence of specific alleles resulted in functional consequences with a decrease in MMP3 gene transcription in human palatal cell lines. Another aspect of Dr. Letra’s research is to investigate the potential correlation between dental anomalies and cancer, based on previous reports showing the segregation of these two conditions in affected individuals or families thus suggesting a common genetic etiology. Dr. Letra is using next-generation sequencing to identify the causal variants underlying the combined phenotype of cancer and dental anomalies. In the endodontics field, Dr. Letra’s research has identified several key molecules involved in the pathogenesis of apical periodontitis.
Education & Training
D.D.S. - Fluminense Federal University - 1995
Ph.D. - University of Sao Paulo - 2007