Particle Nanotechnology Enables Treatment of Oral Plaque without Drugs


Researchers from University of Illinois College of Engineering developed nanoparticles-based therapy to detect and treat oral plaque without drugs

The imbalance of beneficial and harmful bacteria leads to formation of a biofilm, also known as plaque in the mouth. This plaque causes cavities and leads to cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases when left untreated. Now, a research from the University of Illinois developed a practical nanotechnology-based method that can detect and treat the harmful bacteria in the mouth. The harmful bacteria are responsible for plaque, tooth decay and other detrimental conditions. The research was published in Biomaterials on July 30, 2018.

Disclosing agents that contain a dye to stain plaque with a bright color is used to visualize the invisible oral plaque. The disclosing agents are administer in the form of a dissolvable tablet or brush-on swab. The method however, cannot differentiate between beneficial and harmful bacteria as the method majorly depends on the dentist’s visual evaluation. A plaque detection probe developed by the team works in conjunction with common X-ray technology to identify specific harmful bacteria. Plaque is majorly characterized by a complex biofilm of Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans) bacteria. The bacteria can be targeted and destroyed by tweaking the chemical composition of the probe.

The researchers used nanoparticles made of hafnium oxide (HfO2) to develop the probe as HfO2 is non-toxic metal. The probe tested on Sprague Dawley rats was efficient in identifying and destroying the bacterial biofilm of S. mutans.  Moreover, the team compared the therapeutic ability of HfO2 nanoparticles with Chlorhexidine—a chemical currently used to eradicate biofilm. The results revealed that HfO2 nanoparticles were more efficient compared to Chlorhexidine  as  the nanoparticles reduced the biofilm burden both in cell cultures of bacteria and in rats. The remarkable therapeutic abilities of the HfO2 nanoparticles can be attributed to the unique surface chemistry of the particles that promote a latch and kill mechanism. The approach also eliminates anti-biotic resistance issues caused by drugs and offers a safe and highly scalable clinical translation.



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