Preventing and healing tooth decay with a bioactive peptide

bioactive peptide

A bioactive peptide that coats tooth surfaces, helping prevent new cavities and heal existing ones, has been developed by researchers in Hong Kong. 

Conventional treatment for dental cavities involves removing decayed tissue and filling the hole with materials, such as amalgam or composite resin. However, this procedure can damage healthy tissue and cause severe discomfort for patients. 

Researchers from The University of Hong Kong wanted to develop a two-pronged strategy to prevent and treat tooth decay, namely they wanted to prevent colonisation of the tooth surface by the plaque-forming bacteria that cause cavities, and reduce demineralisation, or the dissolving of tooth enamel, while increasing remineralisation, or repair.

The team—who published their findings in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces—based their anti-cavity coating on a natural antimicrobial peptide called H5. Produced by human salivary glands, H5 can adsorb onto tooth enamel and destroy a broad range of bacteria and fungi. 

To promote remineralisation, the team added a phosphoserine group to one end of H5, which they thought could help attract more calcium ions to repair the enamel than natural H5. 

They tested the modified peptide on slices of human molars. Compared with natural H5, the new peptide adsorbed more strongly to the tooth surface, killed more bacteria and inhibited their adhesion, and protected teeth from demineralisation. Surprisingly, however, both peptides promoted remineralisation to a similar degree. 

After brushing, people could someday apply the modified peptide to their teeth as a varnish or gel to protect against tooth decay, the researchers said.


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