Peptide Toothpaste: Patching Up Dental Cavities in the Future?

We’ve already heard about a probiotic pill, an Alzheimer’s-treatment drug and a mineral-replacing toothpaste that could treat or even prevent cavities. Now, scientists at the University of Washington have developed a natural product of their own that may do the job.

Led by Prof. Mehmet Sarikaya, the researchers created peptides (short chains of amino acids) derived from amelogenin, which is a protein that’s crucial to forming a tooth’s hard crown enamel.

These peptides bind onto tooth surfaces, and then biomineralise by recruiting calcium and phosphate ions. In this way, they could conceivably rebuild teeth and “cure” early-stage cavities by restoring the mineral structure found in native tooth enamel.

In lab tests, the peptides allowed the deposition of 10 to 50 micrometers of new enamel on teeth after each application. It is hoped that once the technology is commercialised, it could find its way into a daily-use toothpaste which should be safe for adults and children, along with products such as gels that could be applied in dental clinics.

White spot lesions (WSL) and incipient caries on enamel surfaces are the earliest clinical outcomes for demineralisation and caries.

If left untreated, the caries can progress and may cause complex restorative procedures or even tooth extraction which destroys soft and hard tissue architecture as a consequence of connective tissue and bone loss.

Current clinical practices are insufficient in treating dental caries. A long-standing practical challenge associated with demineralisation related to dental diseases is incorporating a functional mineral microlayer which is fully integrated into the molecular structure of the tooth in repairing damaged enamel.

This study demonstrates that small peptide domains derived from native protein amelogenin can be utilised to construct a mineral layer on damaged human enamel in vitro.

So will dental veneers be replaced by a humble brushing or is this just a fanciful notion?

Six groups were prepared to carry out remineralisation on artificially created lesions on enamel: (1) no treatment, (2) Ca2+ and PO43– only, (3) 1100 ppm fluoride (F), (4) 20 000 ppm F, (5) 1100 ppm F and peptide, and (6) peptide alone. While the 1100 ppm F sample (indicative of common F content of toothpaste for homecare) did not deliver F to the thinly deposited mineral layer, high F test sample (indicative of clinical varnish treatment) formed mainly CaF2 nanoparticles on the surface. Fluoride, however, was deposited in the presence of the peptide, which also formed a thin mineral layer which was partially crystallised as fluorapatite.

Among the test groups, only the peptide-alone sample resulted in remineralisation of fairly thick (10 μm) dense mineralised layer containing HAp mineral, resembling the structure of the healthy enamel. The newly formed mineralised layer exhibited integration with the underlying enamel as evident by cross-sectional imaging. The peptide-guided remineralisation approach sets the foundation for future development of biomimetic products and treatments for dental health care.

We’re guessing that cavity treatments like these may be a thing of the past if peptide manufacturers get their way. And for many who live in fear of the fictional sadistic dentist more reason to brush is very welcome.

“Remineralisation guided by peptides is a healthy alternative to current dental health care,” says Sarikaya. “Peptide-enabled formulations will be simple and would be implemented in over-the-counter or clinical products.”

Fascinated by peptides? We can’t yet say that everything you wanted to know about peptides is in this Sydney website but there are peptide websites springing up around the planet.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering.

Source: University of Washington
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