José Orlando Maldonado-Ortiz, DDS, PhD
Assistant Research Investigator
"Dentist-scientist studying salivary gland disorders/damage from viral infections, immune diseases, and radiation therapies."

Dr. José Maldonado is an Assistant Research Investigator at HealthPartners Institute (HPI), an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry (UMN-SOD), and a Special Volunteer at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Maldonado’s long-term career goal is to lead and develop clinical and translational research programs that asks fundamental questions related to salivary gland (SG) biology aimed at repairing or preventing damage to the SG and understanding SG dysfunction as a result of viral infections. Dr. Maldonado’s research lab will build new research areas focused on interrogating the pathophysiology of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection of the SG; HCV is the most common bloodborne infection in the USA. Newer generations of HCV antiviral therapies are highly effective and open the door to study the effects of the viral infection in oral tissues and determine if these are chronic or resolve after treatment.

Dr. Maldonado first entered the field of virology as a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota in the laboratory of Dr. Louis Mansky. During his time in graduate school, he published four first-authored research articles, one first-authored review article, two co-authored research articles, and one co-authored review article. This work significantly advanced our understanding of factors influencing HIV mutation, which impedes vaccine and drug development, as well as to understand the assembly and release of HTLV-1 virus particles, which are important in the development of effective antiviral drugs. As part of this research, he optimized a protocol to study mature HTLV-1 virions and developed and optimized a model system to study fluorescently-labeled immature HTLV-1 virus particles, both cell-free and in live cells. Dr. Maldonado also successfully competed for funding on multiple occasions (e.g. T32 and F30), mentored one undergraduate student for several years, one high school student for two summers, assisted in the training of new doctoral students, and managed collaborations with structural biologists, computer scientists, and biophysicists. After graduating, he joined the laboratory of Dr. John Chiorini, an authority in the field of salivary gland dysfunction and Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) biology and gene therapy, in the AAV Biology Section at NIH/NIDCR to expand his work on how viruses affect SG function. During his fellowship, Dr. Maldonado published one first-authored research article, which demonstrated HCV infection of the SG ductal epithelial cells, increased SG fibrosis, and changes in saliva composition that may lead to xerostomia. Dr. Maldonado also published a first-authored book chapter in saliva, salivary gland, and myoepithelial cells biology. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Maldonado contributed to two high-impact publications; 1) demonstrated SARS-CoV-2 infection of the oral cavity and saliva, and 2) developed a novel SARS-CoV-2 RNA extraction-free virus detection method. Additionally, Dr. Maldonado continues to be an assistant investigator in five clinical research protocols at NIH/NIDCR.

Dr. Maldonado’s training and research experience have provided him with a strong foundation, expertise, and passion in the biologic sciences to successfully develop a research program as an independent investigator in oral/head and neck research. In addition, as someone from an underrepresented group on the natural sciences, he understands the difficulties that minorities encounter to enter and progress in the scientific community, thus, he is in a privilege position to promote inclusion and diversity in the sciences. As a dentist-scientist, Dr. Maldonado is uniquely poised to apply his existing knowledge and skills to begin to ask fundamental questions about viral infections in the oral/head and neck tissues.

Conducting Institute research since October, 2022.

Education and training:

  • Bachelor of science with Honors, University of Puerto Rico Cayey, Cayey, Puerto Rico, 06/2009
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 05/2018
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 08/2018
  • Dental Clinical Research Fellowship, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, 10/2022

Affiliations/other offices held:

  • Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Diagnostic and Biological Sciences, School of Dentistry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Special Volunteer, Office of the Clinical Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

Research interests include: Hepatitis C virus infection, which is the most common blood-borne pathogen in the United States and has been associated with dry mouth, offers a unique opportunity to study viral induced salivary gland dysfunction and can provide mechanistic data on the role of viruses in driving inflammation, dysfunction and damage in the salivary glands.

Current research activities and funding:
Maldonado-Ortiz (PI)
07/08/22 – 06/30/26
Exploring Mechanisms of Hepatitis C Virus-Associated Xerostomia


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