Biomaterial Generates Electricity to Combat Periodontitis

Dentistry Today
Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg


Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg

Researchers at the Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry have developed a biomaterial that fights periodontitis without the need for surgery by generating electricity.

The material, known as PizeoGEL, is part of a larger class of smart materials known as piezoelectric materials that “produce electricity in response to mechanical vibrations or mechanical force,” said assistant professor Santiago Orrego.

That electricity in turn spurs other biological processes, the researchers said.

When force such as poking, tapping, vibration, and even sound is exerted on PiezoGEL, the material will generate an electrical charge that can spur a reaction from the body, fighting periodontal infections and promoting bone growth as well, the researchers said.

“The first task is to provide antibacterial effects so we can prevent infections,” said Orrego, “and the second is the actual regeneration of tissues, like bone.”

As periodontitis destroys tissue around the tooth and creates a pocket, which fills with bacteria, PiezoGEL fills that pocket. The body’s natural movements then spurs the electrical charges to elicit the desired biological processes that fight disease and generate tissue.

Piezomaterials existed before the researchers began their work. They often are used in engineering to harvest ambient energy, the researchers said, but this application in biomedicine is groundbreaking.

“We think that this technology can be applied to many fields, like orthopedics,” said Orrego, adding that the possibilities for piezomaterials and other smart materials are almost endless.

“A hip implant is a typical example of a biomaterial that can benefit from these fillers,” Orrego said. “The charges will prevent implant infection and will foster bone growth in the vicinity. These bioactive effects may extend the life of an implant.”

Orrego recently received a $200,000 grant from the Science Center’s QED Proof of Concept Program, which helps regional academic and research institutions to prepare their most promising life science and healthcare technologies for commercialization.

Next, Orrego and his colleagues will use the grant funding the continue to develop PiezoGEL as well as piezomaterials’ potential applications both within dentistry and beyond.

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