Protein-Coated Implants May Improve Bone Regeneration

In laboratory tests, researchers at the Medical College of Georgia applied a protein onto implants that directs endogenous stem cells to become bone-forming cells. The result was a nearly complete regeneration of lost tissue, says Dr. Ulf Wikesjö, a professor of periodontics in MCG’s School of Dentistry.

Wikesjö and his colleagues found that any regeneration requires two characteristics: a stable wound and space for the regenerated tissue to grow during the initial stages of healing. “If these components are in place, regeneration of the tissues around the tooth may occur within a week or two,” he says. “After that, it’s a matter of the wound maturing – going through the various stages of healing that we’re already familiar with.”

By experimenting with treatments and discerning their effect on healing bone defects, they found some – including some in use today – that actually hinder tissue regeneration. The experiments helped researchers narrow down possible treatments to the use of proteins that directed stem cells to become bone-forming cells. Those bone morpheonetic proteins have already shown promise as a regeneration therapy for craniofacial reconstruction.

“None of us had any idea at the time how or if those proteins could be useful in treating tooth loss,” Wikesjö says. To find out, researchers placed the proteins around teeth and implants in animal models. Around teeth, the bone-forming cells grew into existing bone and eventually morphed into bone themselves. However, the root of the tooth was destroyed by the replacement bone. That process impeded regeneration of other essential tissues around the tooth.

Applying the protein to implants proved more beneficial. “There was almost complete regeneration,” he says. “The generated bone bonded with the implant’s surface and, eventually, existing bone in the gums. That allowed for the regeneration of gum tissues.”; Source: Medical College of Georgia