Health grant advances biomaterials research to tackle dental disease

Assistant Professor Eli D. Sone and colleagues receive Collaborative Health Research Project (CHRP) grant from NSERC and CIHR for biomaterials research targeting periodontal gum disease


Sone, Eli D.

Eli D. Sone, Assistant Professor (IBBME / MSE)

April 10, 2014

Composite biomaterials researcher Assistant Professor Eli D. Sone is an expert in the attachment mechanism of ligaments to bones and teeth. And in this latest project, he and his colleagues are making recovery from gum disease “stick.”

Dr. Sone and his collaborators from the Faculty of Dentistry, Associate Professor Bernhard Ganss and Professor Chris McCulloch, are targeting a problem that affects an estimated 47% of Americans alone: periodontal gum disease.

This disease causes bacteria to destroy the junction between teeth and gums. When the disease progresses, the bacteria migrate down to the root of tooth and destroy the attachment of the tooth to the jawbone. Treatment for this disease involves scraping the bacteria from the tooth, followed by re-attaching the gum flap back onto the tooth to encourage healing.

“The problem is, there’s really no reliable way to stick the gum flap back to the tooth,” explained Professor Sone. “Without an effective seal, bacteria can re-infect the wound. Epithelial cells routinely invade the wound space and prevent normal healing.”

The joint Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grant, worth approximately $550K, will create a novel collagen-based membrane that will enable mineralization, cementing the gum flap to the tooth.

So what makes this membrane different from other membranes already on the market?

In a word: amelotin. Amelotin is a natural human protein discovered by Ganss, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Dentistry, cross-appointed to IBBME. In 2013, Ganss’ lab found that this particular protein promotes mineralization – the same process that bones and teeth undergo for healing and growth.

Amelotin – a natural human protein that promotes the process that bones and teeth undergo for healing and growth

The third team member, Chris McCulloch, Canada Research Chair in Matrix Dynamics, is a clinical scientist in the Faculty of Dentistry. McCulloch has extensive experience in the development of treatment and diagnostic tools for periodontal diseases, and has developed the models of periodontitis that will be used to test the membranes.

The goal of the project is to progress the research to the point where their industry partner, Octane Biotech Inc., can move the product through the commercialization process to the market.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” said Sone of the win. “The project really brings together a diverse team that has a really good shot of making an impact in this area.”

With files from Engineering Strategic Communications