Gum disease treated by bringing needed immune cells to inflamed tissue

November 1, 2013, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

The red, swollen and painful gums and bone destruction of periodontal disease could be effectively treated by beckoning the right kind of immune system cells to the inflamed tissues, according to a new animal study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. Their findings, published this week in the early online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer a new therapeutic paradigm for a condition that afflicts 78 million people in the U.S. alone.

Periodontal disease currently is treated by keeping oral in check with daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional deep cleaning with scaling and root planing, which remove tartar above and below the gum line. In some hard-to-treat cases, antibiotics are given. These strategies of mechanical tartar removal and antimicrobial delivery aim to reduce the amount of on the tooth surface, explained co-author and co-investigator Charles Sfeir, D.D.S., Ph.D., director, Center for Craniofacial Regeneration and associate professor, Departments of Periodontics and Oral Biology, Pitt's School of Dental Medicine.

"Currently, we try to control the build-up of bacteria so it doesn't trigger severe inflammation, which could eventually damage the bone and tissue that hold the teeth in place," Dr. Sfeir said. "But that strategy doesn't address the real cause of the problem, which is an overreaction of the immune system that causes a needlessly aggressive response to the presence of oral bacteria. There is a real need to design new approaches to treat ."

In the healthy mouth, a balance exists between bacteria and the immune system response to forestall infection without generating inflammation, said senior author Steven Little, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering. But in many people, a chronic overload of bacteria sets up the to stay on red alert, causing harm to the oral tissues while it attempts to eradicate germs.

"There is a lot of evidence now that shows these diseased tissues are deficient in a subset of called regulatory T-cells, which tells attacking immune cells to stand down, stopping the inflammatory response," Dr. Little said. "We wanted to see what would happen if we brought these regulatory T-cells back to the gums."

To do so, the researchers developed a system of polymer microspheres to slowly release a chemokine, or signaling protein, called CCL22 that attracts regulatory T-cells, and placed tiny amounts of the paste-like agent between the gums and teeth of animals with periodontal disease. The team found that even though the amount of bacteria was unchanged, the treatment led to improvements of standard measures of periodontal disease, including decreased pocket depth and gum bleeding, reflecting a reduction in inflammation as a result of increased numbers of regulatory T-cells. MicroCT-scanning showed lower rates of bone loss.

"Mummified remains from ancient Egypt show evidence of teeth scraping to remove plaque," Dr. Little noted. "The tools are better and people are better trained now, but we've been doing much the same thing for hundreds of years. Now, this homing beacon for Treg cells, combined with professional cleaning, could give us a new way of preventing the serious consequences of periodontal disease by correcting the immune imbalance that underlies the condition."

Next steps include developing the immune modulation strategy for human trials. In addition to Drs. Sfeir and Little, the research team included Ph.D. candidate Andrew J. Glowacki,, Sayuri Yoshizawa, D.D.S., Ph.D., Siddharth Jhunjhunwala, Ph.D., all of the University of Pittsburgh; and Andreia E Vieira, Ph.D., and Gustavo P. Garlet, D.D.S., Ph.D., of Sao Paulo University, Brazil.

Explore further: Evidence that new biomimetic controlled-release capsules may help in gum disease

Related Stories

Evidence that new biomimetic controlled-release capsules may help in gum disease

August 20, 2012
Scientists are trying to open a new front in the battle against gum disease, the leading cause of tooth loss in adults and sometimes termed the most serious oral health problem of the 21st century. They described another ...

Expectant mothers' periodontal health vital to health of her baby

August 28, 2013
When a woman becomes pregnant, she knows it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to ensure both the health of herself and the health of her baby. New clinical recommendations from the American Academy of Periodontology ...

Researchers find potential link between gum disease and Alzheimer's

October 4, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Oral bacteria from poor dental hygiene have been linked to brain tissue degeneration, according to new evidence from an international team of researchers, including one at the University of Florida College ...

Genes that control nervous system development play a role in gum disease

March 5, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—By simultaneously investigating millions of gene variants in more than 5,000 individuals, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reveal that genes that are responsible for nervous ...

Bacteria responsible for gum disease facilitates rheumatoid arthritis

September 12, 2013
Does gum disease indicate future joint problems? Although researchers and clinicians have long known about an association between two prevalent chronic inflammatory diseases - periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis ...

Recommended for you

Chronic inflammation causes loss of muscle mass during aging

January 12, 2018
People start losing muscle mass at the age of 40—about some 10 percent of the total muscle mass for each 10-year period, which may lead to fall-related injuries, slowing metabolism and reduced quality of life. Today, very ...

Breathing exercises help asthma patients with quality of life

December 13, 2017
A study led by the University of Southampton has found that people who continue to get problems from their asthma, despite receiving standard treatment, experience an improved quality of life when they are taught breathing ...

Study highlights the need for research into prevention of inflammatory bowel disease

December 7, 2017
Countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America have seen a rise in incidence of inflammatory bowel disease as they have become increasingly industrialised and westernised, a new study has found.

Air pollution can increase asthma risk in adults, even at low levels

November 24, 2017
Living close to a busy road can be bad for your respiratory health if you are middle aged, new Australian research has found.

Evidence found of oral bacteria contributing to bowel disorders

October 20, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found evidence that suggests certain types of oral bacteria may cause or exacerbate bowel disorders. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

New compound discovered in fight against inflammatory disease

September 22, 2017
A 10-year study by University of Manchester scientists for a new chemical compound that is able to block a key component in inflammatory illness has ended in success.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.