Biomaterial Could Promote Living Dental Pulp After Root Canal

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Scientists have reported the development of a peptide hydrogel biomaterial designed to promote the growth of new dental pulp and blood vessels following a root canal. Traditionally, a root canal procedure involves the removal of infected dental pulp inside before inserting small rubber rods called gutta percha and capping the affected tooth with a crown. This leaves the tooth unresponsive, or “dead”, without nerve endings or vascular supply. The unresponsive tooth is therefore much more susceptible to further infection and potentially falling out.

Project leaders Vivek Kumar, Ph.D. and Peter Nguyen, Ph.D. wanted to develop a material that could be injected instead of the gutta percha that would stimulate angiogenesis and dentinogenesis within the tooth. Kumar employed his previous experience creating a hydrogel that when injected under the skin of rats, promotes angiogenesis after the peptides in the liquid self-assemble into a gel. The peptides contain a segment of protein that stimulates the growth of new blood vessels, which was the platform for angiogenesis that the material was based on.

As angiogenesis for the rat hydrogel study persisted into the long-term, Kumar and Nguyen extrapolated to other biological domains with low blood flow. Numerous edits on the biomaterial were made, such as the addition of a protein segment to the existing peptide to promote the proliferation of dental pulp stem cells. Additionally, the original peptide backbone was redesigned to avoid material degradation so that tissue stimulation can provide long-term benefits.

The team found that upon adding the new peptide to cultured dental pulp stem cells, the cells had proliferated and were also activated to deposit calcium phosphate crystals, the mineral that comprises dental enamel. The material is now being tested in dogs’ teeth that have undergone root canals to test its ability to stimulate dental pulp regeneration in a living being. The team hopes to move to human clinical studies if the current tests go well, and they have filed a patent for the peptide.

Kumar and Nguyen hope to make future amendments to the product, potentially adding antimicrobial factors to help mitigate the invasiveness of root canal procedures.  “Instead of having to rip out everything inside the tooth, the dentist could go in with a smaller drill bit, remove a little bit of the pulp and inject our hydrogel,” Kumar says. This would allow the antimicrobial material to kill the infection and provide a better baseline for promoting dental pulp growth.


For Further Information

More on the dental bone graft substitute market in the U.S. can be found in a series of reports published by iData Research entitled the U.S. Market Report Suite for Dental Bone Graft Substitutes and Other Biomaterials.


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