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Alzheimer's drug could point to future of dentistry

Posted: 25th January 2017 09:19

Researchers at King’s College London have discovered a novel use of a drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease, finding that the drug can potentially help repair damage to teeth. In the study, the drug, tideglusib, was found to be able to help produce dentine, the protective coating of the soft pulp of the teeth. Though still in the early stages of trials, the positive results could suggest a new fashion of repairing teeth that have developed cavities or damage.

The tooth contains a protective layer of enamel, with a further layer of dentine protecting the soft pulp at the centre of the tooth. The drug harnesses the natural method that teeth use to repair themselves, as they are able to produce small amounts of dentine to repair small cavities. However, the tooth’s natural method of repair is not sufficient for large holes and this is where this particular treatment steps in.

The researchers tested the treatment on mice by soaking collagen sponges in the drug before securing them to an area of damaged dentine. The collagen sponges, which are already clinically approved for use, were found to degrade over time to be replaced by newly created dentine. The treatment works by encouraging existing stem cells to convert into odontoblasts, cells in the pulp of the teeth that produce dentine.

Lead author of the study, Professor Paul Sharpe from King’s College London said: “The simplicity of our approach makes it ideal as a clinical dental product for the natural treatment of large cavities, by providing both pulp protection and restoring dentine. In addition, using a drug that has already been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease provides a real opportunity to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics.”

This is one of the key factors in the treatment; it could be ready to be used clinically in a short time. The researchers have moved from mouse subjects to rats, whose teeth are four times larger. The key issue of whether this development is able to scale up from mice to humans are the potential size of areas that require repair - this will be the next test for treatment if proven successful in rats. It would stand as an improvement over current methods, which involve replacing the natural area of tooth with a filling – leading to the potential for further infection and further dental work.

Ben Hargreaves

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