A novel three-dimensional (3-D) printing-inspired process that may help engineer artificial blood vessels for teeth, creating better and long-term outcomes for patients suffering from infected or decayed teeth, has been developed by US researchers. The process is more effective than the age-old root canal procedure that may cause teeth to become brittle and susceptible to fracture over time, the researchers said. “Root canal eliminates the tooth’s blood and nerve supply, rendering it lifeless and void of any biological response or defence mechanism, without which adult teeth may be lost much sooner, which can result in the need for dentures or dental implants,” said lead investigator Luiz Bertassoni, Assistant Professor at the Oregon Health and Science University in the US.
For the new process, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team placed a fibre mould made of sugar molecules across the root canal of extracted human teeth and injected a gel-like material, similar to proteins found in the body, filled with dental pulp cells. They then removed the fibre to make a long microchannel in the root canal and inserted endothelial cells isolated from the interior lining of blood vessels.
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After seven days, dentin-producing cells proliferated near the tooth walls and artificial blood vessels formed inside the tooth. “This result proves that fabrication of artificial blood vessels can be a highly effective strategy for fully regenerating the function of teeth,” Bertassoni said. “We believe that this finding may change the way that root canal treatments are done in the future,” Bertassoni added.