In a pre-clinical study, Israeli scientists have shown it is potentially possible to reduce pain and recovery time with the aid of specialised nanotechnology.
Their research is published in a recent issue of ACS Nano.
Every year, five million people undergo orthodontic procedures in the US, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. In some cases, teeth are misaligned to such an extent that surgery is required to cut collagen fibres under the gums before braces are put on the teeth. But patients often choose not to undergo the procedure because it’s invasive and can be painful.
Scientists recently have turned to nanotechnologies to target therapeutics to specific locations, to help manage this pain. For example, previous studies have shown some success in using liposomes, which are empty nanoscale vesicles, for drug delivery. Collagenase enzymes could potentially remodel the fibres connecting teeth to bone in the mouth without using a scalpel, but so far, delivering enzymes with liposomes has been challenging.
Avi Schroeder from the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and colleagues wanted to develop liposomes that could deliver collagenase enzymes to perform targeted nanosurgery in the mouth.
To do this, they developed liposomal nanoparticles that contained collagenase and performed tests with them in rats. When the liposomes were placed under the gums, the collagenase diffused out of the particles and was activated by calcium naturally found in the mouth. The collagenase weakened the collagen fibres, making it easier to shift the teeth afterwards with braces.
The team found that compared to conventional surgery, the collagenase treatment helped move the teeth three times faster. In addition, all of the rats lost some weight after the surgery, just as humans typically do. But unlike the other rats, the ones treated with collagenase quickly rebounded to their normal healthy weight—an outcome that suggests they were not in pain.