A recent study which appeared in Nature Immunology shows that the deterioration in gum health which occurs with increasing age is associated with a drop in the level of a chemical called Del-1.
Periodontitis is a disease of the gums which causes bleeding and bone loss which can, over time, lead to loss of teeth. Periodontitis is caused by an over-active immune response to bacteria that grow in the mouth.
As people age they are more likely to suffer from inflammatory diseases, including gum disease.
The new research investigated gum disease in young and old mice and found that an increase in gum disease in the older animals was accompanied by a drop in the level of Del-1. Del-1 is known to restrain the immune system by stopping white blood cells from sticking to and attacking mouth tissue.
In mice that had no Del-1, they developed severe gum disease and elevated bone loss. Further the researchers found unusually high levels of white blood cells in the gum tissue.
When the researchers treated the gums of the mice with Del-1, the number of white blood cells dropped, and gum disease and bone loss were reduced.
As indicated by the researchers, understanding the mechanism for why gum disease is more common with old age is the first step to the development of an effective treatment.
Journal Source: Mehmet A Eskan, Ravi Jotwani, Toshiharu Abe, Jindrich Chmelar, Jong-Hyung Lim, Shuang Liang, Paul A Ciero, Jennifer L Krauss, Fenge Li, Martina Rauner, Lorenz C Hofbauer, Eun Young Choi, Kyoung-Jin Chung, Ahmed Hashim, Michael A Curtis, Triantafyllos Chavakis, George Hajishengallis. The leukocyte integrin antagonist Del-1 inhibits IL-17-mediated inflammatory bone loss. Nature Immunology. 2012.