The red, swollen and painful gums and bone destruction of periodontal disease could be treated by beckoning the right kind of immune system cells to the inflamed tissues, according to a new animal study.
Periodontal disease currently is treated by keeping oral bacteria in check with daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional cleaning with microabrasion, scaling and root planing, which remove tartar above and below the gum line.
“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 periodontal disease.”
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.