The renewal of living stem cells in tooth pulp could occur using an Alzheimer’s drug has been discovered by a team of researchers at King’s College London. Following trauma or an infection, the inner, soft pulp of a tooth can become exposed and infected. In order to protect the tooth from infection, a thin band of dentine is naturally produced and seals the tooth pulp, but is insufficient to effectively repair large cavities.
Currently dentists use human-made cements or fillings, such as calcium and silicon-based products, to treat these larger cavities and fill holes in teeth. This cement remains in the tooth and fails to disintegrate, meaning the normal mineral level of the tooth is never completely restored. In a paper published in Scientific Reports, scientists from King’s College London have proven a way to stimulate stem cells contained in the pulp of the tooth and generate new dentine in large cavities, potentially reducing the need for fillings or cements.
The novel approach could see teeth use their natural ability to repair large cavities. When fillings fail or infection occurs, dentists have to remove and fill an area that is even larger than what is affected, and after multiple treatments the tooth may eventually have to be extracted.
One of the small molecules used by the team to stimulate the renewal of stem cells include Tideglusib, which has previously been used in clinical trials to treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. The team used biodegradable collagen sponges to deliver the treatment and applied low doses of a small molecule glycogen synthase kinase (GSK-3) to the tooth. They found the sponge degraded over time and new dentine replaced it, leading to complete, natural repair of the tooth. Collagen sponges are commercially-available and clinically-approved, which adds to the potential of the treatment’s eventual use in dental clinics.
Vitor C. M. Neves, Rebecca Babb, Dhivya Chandrasekaran, Paul T. Sharpe. Promotion of natural tooth repair by small molecule GSK3 antagonists. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 39654