Images Reveal Neovascularization to Improve Healing After Implant Surgery

Dentistry Today
Photo by Niloufar Khosravi.


Photo by Niloufar Khosravi.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have uncovered new information that could accelerate post-surgical healing for dental implant treatments and other diverse medical devices such as skin dressings. Their study describes how different implant surface textures affect a fundamental process in the body’s ability to heal the area surrounding the implant.

“We have known for decades that creating nanoscale implant surface texture improves clinical success rates,” said John E. Davies, BDS, PhD, DSc, professor with the school’s Faculty of Dentistry and Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and senior author. “However, little was known of the cellular mechanisms by which the implant surface affects the healing process.” 

The team looked at the effect of implant surface texture on neovascularization, the process of blood vessel formation, around implants.

“The ability for blood vessels to form around an implant is a key factor in its successful tissue integration,” said Niloufar Khosravi, a PhD candidate in Davies’ lab and the study’s first author. “Indeed, neovascularization is vital for tissue healing and regeneration around the implant.” 

To study this effect, the researchers build a model that allowed them to observe the implant healing process in real time using intravital optical microscopic imaging systems developed in the lab of team leader Ralph DaCosta, PhD, of the Princess Margaret Cancer Center and assistant professor with the school’s Department of Medical Biophysics.

Their experiments monitored the formation of new blood vessels around a series of medical-grade titanium implants at the cellular level and how the distribution and pattern of neovascularization changed in the presence of implants of differing surface texture.

“We did not initially expect blood vessels to be clearly visible in this model,” said Khosravi. “We decided to add an imaging contrast agent after a few pilot studies, and the resulting resolution was remarkably higher than we expected. It allowed us to monitor not only the rate but also the location, shape, function, and pattern of new blood vessels around implants over a six-week period.”

In addition to adding new knowledge for designing better medical implants, the team’s findings could also address other related challenges in human health.

“We can use this knowledge to build broader implantable biomaterials to improve the quality of life for people who have impaired healing conditions, such as the elderly or persons with diabetes,” said DaCosta. “We now have new tools and strategies to better support the body’s natural repair process.”

The study, “Nanosurfaces Modulate the Mechanism of Peri-Implant Endosseous Healing by Regulating Neovascular Morphogenesis,” was published by Communications Biology.

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