Hydrogels and peptides could revolutionize root canals

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In Massachusetts, exciting news came from the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society for anyone who might need a root canal. New Jersey Institute of Technology researchers developed a peptide hydrogel designed to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels and dental pulp within a tooth after a root canal procedure. Usually, a root canal results in a dead tooth with no living soft tissue, or dental pulp, inside, but that could soon change thanks to this biomaterial that can keep the tooth alive after the root canal.

The team added a new peptide to cultured dental pulp stem cells and found that the peptide not only caused the cells to proliferate, but also activated them to deposit calcium phosphate crystals — the mineral that makes up tooth enamel. However, when injected under the skin of rats, 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 Vivek Kumar, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator.

Now, the team is injecting the peptide hydrogel into the teeth of dogs that have undergone root canals to see if it can stimulate dental pulp regeneration in a living animal. If these studies go well, the researchers plan to move the hydrogel into human clinical studies.