Researchers at Tel Aviv University are developing a water-based gel that will encourage bones to re-grow.
It could transform the way dentists replace lost teeth with implants. If there’s not enough bone below the gum to anchor the implant, they sometimes have to graft in extra bone from a healthy part of the body, which is a complex medical procedure.
The researchers say the water-based gel – or hydrogel – has extensive clinical applications in orthopedic and dental medicine.
“When we lose teeth due to extensive damage or bacterial infections, the standard treatment is dental implants,” said Prof Lihi Adler-Abramovich, one of the experts who conducted the study, from the Maurice and Gabriela Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine.
“Implants, however, must be anchored in a sufficient amount of bone, and when bone loss is too substantial, physicians implant additional bone from a healthy part of the body – a complex medical procedure.
“Another option is adding bone substitutes from either human or animal sources, but these might generate an immune response. I hope that in the future the hydrogel we have developed will enable faster, safer, and simpler bone restoration.”
Natural substances that surround our cells are known as the ‘extracellular matrix’, and every tissue in our body has one with different properties.
The gel mimics the extracellular matrix of the natural bone, which stimulates bone growth and reactivates the immune system to accelerate the healing process.
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Following successful tests in an animal model, they plan to move forward to clinical trials.
“Small bone defects, such as fractures, heal spontaneously, with the body restoring the lost bone tissue.
“The problem begins with large bone defects. In many cases, when substantial bone loss results from tumor resection (removal by surgery), physical trauma, tooth extraction, gum disease or inflammation around dental implants, the bone is unable to renew itself.
“In our study, we produced a hydrogel that mimics this specific matrix in both chemical and physical properties. At the nanometric level, the cell can attach itself to the gel, gaining structural support and receiving relevant mechanical signals from the fibers.
“To our delight, the bone defects were fully corrected through regeneration, with the bones regaining their original thickness, and generating new blood vessels.”
The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.