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New research may one day revolutionize endodontics

Research that involves injecting the root canal with a hydrogel may one day change the way dentists perform root canal therapy. (PakTung/Shutterstock)

Tue. 28. August 2018


BOSTON, U.S.: Root canal therapy and the materials and techniques used to perform them are continually evolving. However, the fact remains that after the procedure a dead sensory organ is left inside the body. In an advancement that may one day alleviate this outcome, researchers have developed a peptide hydrogel designed to regenerate dental pulp after root canal therapy.

Presenting the results of the study at the 256th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Boston, lead researcher Dr. Vivek Kumar, from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, said: “What you end up with after a root canal is a dead tooth. It’s no longer responsive. There are no nerve endings or vascular supply. So the tooth is very susceptible to subsequent infection and, ultimately, falling out.”

Drawing on his previous experience of working with angiogenesis, Kumar was interested to discover whether this could be stimulated in teeth. With this in mind, the researchers added another domain to the self-assembling angiogenic peptide: a piece of a protein that makes dental pulp stem cells proliferate.

When the team added the new peptide to cultured dental pulp stem cells, they found that the peptide not only caused the cells to proliferate, but also activated them to deposit calcium phosphate crystals. However, the researchers also noted that the peptide degraded within one to three weeks. “This was shorter than we expected, so we went back and redesigned the peptide backbone so that we currently have a much more stable version,” said Kumar.

Although still at a very early research stage, the researchers hope to eventually have a version of the peptide that contains antimicrobial domains. This would mean that, instead of extracting everything inside the root, the dentist could go in with a smaller file, remove a little bit of the pulp and inject the hydrogel, resulting in the antimicrobial portion of the peptide resolving the infection.

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