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Alzheimer's drug to make dental fillings history

13 Jan 2017

MRC-funded scientists at King’s College London have discovered that a drug previously trialled in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease could transform the way we treat tooth cavities, making man-made fillings a thing of the past.

The research team from the Dental Institute at King's College London was funded by the MRC to study tooth damage repair. Tooth stem cells repair damage by generating new dentine – the mineralised material that protects the tooth.

The team identified a series of signals, part of the cell repair process, that stimulate these tooth stem cells to start repairing damaged tissue. By using small molecules – glycogen synthase kinase (GSK-3) inhibitors – that switch on these signals they were able to stimulate the stem cells needed for repairing tooth damage.

One of these molecules, called Tideglusib, had already been used in clinical trials for neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, so it had the clear advantage of having available patient safety data.

Using biodegradable collagen sponges to deliver the drug, the team applied low doses of small molecule GSK-3 inhibitors to the tooth. They found that the sponge degraded over time and that new dentine replaced it, leading to complete and natural repair. Their discovery represents a way to stimulate tooth stem cells to generate new dentine in large cavities, potentially reducing the need for fillings or cements.

As collagen sponges are already commercially-available and clinically-approved, the new treatment could be available in dental clinics reasonably swiftly.

Lead author of the study, Professor Paul Sharpe from King's College London said: "The simplicity of our approach makes it ideal as a clinical dental product for the natural treatment of large cavities, by providing both pulp protection and restoring dentine.

"In addition, using a drug that has already been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease provides a real opportunity to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics."

For full details, the paper 'Promotion of natural tooth repair by small molecule GSK3 antagonists' by Vitor Neves, Rebecca Babb, Dhivya Chandrasekaran and Paul T Sharpe is available at www.nature.com/articles/srep39654

This research paper is supported by the MRC and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Guy's and St Thomas and King's College London. 


  • Categories: Research
  • Health categories: Neurological, Other
  • Locations: London
  • Type: News article, Success story