Researchers have created 3D-printed artificial blood vessels that could revolutionise root canal therapy to help people retain fully functioning teeth.
Professor Luiz Bardessono and his team published the breakthrough this week in Scientific Reports. He leads The Bertassoni Lab at Oregon Health and Science University and the Bioengineering Laboratory in the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Sydney.
While current root canal therapy is effective in saving an infected or decayed tooth, the procedure may cause teeth to become brittle and susceptible to fracture over time.
Based on previous work fabricating artificial capillaries, the researchers placed a fibre mould made of sugar molecules across the root canal of extracted human teeth and injected a material similar to proteins found in the body filled with dental pulp cells.
The researchers removed the fibre to make a long microchannel in the root canal and inserted endothelial cells (cells that are involved in filtering gases, fluid and molecules across cell membranes) isolated from the interior lining of blood vessels.
After seven days, dentin-producing cells appeared near the tooth walls and artificial blood vessels formed inside the tooth.
Professor Bertassoni said the research proved artificial blood vessels can be used to treat root canals: “This result proves that fabrication of artificial blood vessels can be a highly effective strategy for fully regenerating the function of the teeth.
“We believe that this finding may change the way that root canal treatments are done in the future,” said Professor Bertassoni.
Current root canal treatment involves removing infected dental tissues and replacing them with synthetic biomaterials covered by a protective crown, which often results in further decay over time.
“This process eliminates the tooth’s blood and nerve supply, rendering it lifeless and void of any biological response or defence mechanism.
“Without this functionality, adult teeth may be lost much sooner, which can result in much greater concerns, such as the need for dentures or dental implants,” he said.
(Source: University of Sydney)