The Seventh Scientific Meeting of The TMJ Association, "Genetic and Epigenetic Basis of Temporomandibular Disorders and Related Chronic Overlapping Conditions," is scheduled to be held on September 7-9, 2014 at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The need for this meeting is driven by two critical issues. First, there are an estimated 36 million people affected by Temporomandibular Disorders (TMJD) in the U.S., the majority being women in their childbearing years with consequential physical, psychological and financial burdens. Second, there continues to be a dearth of scientific understanding of the etiology and pathophysiology of these conditions, their comorbidities and treatment. To stimulate research in this field, The TMJ Association has organized six scientific meetings beginning in the year 2000 which have convened interdisciplinary groups of scientists to characterize and address the complex symptoms and frequently found comorbid conditions in TMJD patients. The theme of the currently proposed meeting is built upon important new data from the OPPERA consortium and other studies which have now demonstrated that TMJD are a complex family of conditions influenced by genes, sex, environmental and behavioral triggers. These studies have provided a solid basis of understanding of the transcriptome and have identified polymorphisms associated with the vulnerability of patients to TMJD. Given recent technological advances in genomic sequencing it is now possible to undertake studies to explain how environmental factors and stressors affect the epigenome and the regulation of these genes. The proposed meeting will bring together experts to discuss and inform how the epigenome may expand our understanding of TMJD and the complex pathways that link the various associated comorbid conditions such as chronic pain. The meeting will engage key scientific leaders, NIH representatives and patient advocacy representatives who will develop recommendations to advance research in this field.
The specific aims are to determine: 1. What is currently known about the underlying mechanisms of chronic generalized persistent pain? 2. What are meaningful research strategies that could help decipher the rules by which gene networks are regulated and help understand how such regulation affects cellular function leading to the overlapping chronic conditions associated with TMJD and persistent pain? 3. How can studies of the epigenome expand our understanding of TMJD and chronic persistent pain? 4. What computational methods and gene regulatory models will be required to advance these studies? 5. How to probe cellular pathways to determine the effects of epigenetic modulation using novel computational tools? 6. How can these novel approaches be used to identify targets and develop new treatment modalities for TMJD and comorbid chronic pain conditions?
Up to 50 million Americans experience TMJD, chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis and vulvodynia, all of which are associated with varying degrees of chronic pain and there is evidence that regional and widespread chronic pain conditions represent overlapping pathologies that are a part of a continuum. The estimated cost of these six pain conditions alone is $80 billion, which because the causal nature of this pain is poorly understood lack effective treatments. The proposed scientific meeting will accelerate the scientific research that is needed to reduce the suffering and financial burden placed upon these patients and families.