Look Mom, No Cavities!

Fillings may one day become a thing of the past as scientists have discovered a drug that can stimulate stem cells in tooth pulp and repair cavities. The drug, known as Tideglusib, could be fast-tracked into dental applications, since it has already been demonstrated to be safe for human use in clinical trials for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Although teeth already possess the capability to regenerate dentine when the pulp is damaged due to trauma or infection, they can only produce a very thin layer. In the case of tooth decay, where the damage is deep, cements are needed to fill the holes and protect the underlying portions of the tooth.

The new drug works by turning off an enzyme (called GSK-3), which inhibits dentine growth. Small, biodegradable, collagen sponges are soaked with the drug and inserted into the cavity to trigger the body’s natural systems and restore the dentine. Over time, the sponge melts away, leaving only the tooth. In experiments on mice, the entire injury site was repaired within six weeks.

This new approach offers a less invasive treatment option for patients who suffer from dental phobia and could alleviate the long-term problems associated with traditional fillings.

For information: Paul Sharpe, King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, United Kingdom; phone: +44-(0)20-7836-5454; email: paul.sharpe@kcl.ac.uk; Web site: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/index.aspx