Washington: Researchers have developed a 3D printing-inspired process to engineer artificial blood vessels in teeth, an advance that may effectively regenerate the function of teeth in patients undergoing root canal treatment.
While root canals are effective in saving a tooth that has become infected or decayed, this age-old procedure may cause teeth to become brittle and susceptible to fracture over time.
The current procedure involves removing infected dental tissues and replacing them with synthetic biomaterials covered by a protective crown.
"This process eliminates the tooth's blood and nerve supply, rendering it lifeless and void of any biological response or defence mechanism," said Luiz Bertassoni, an assistant professor at Oregon Health and Science University in the US.
"Without this functionality, adult teeth may be lost much sooner, which can result in much greater concerns, such as the need for dentures or dental implants," said Bertassoni, principal investigator of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
To address this issue, Bertassoni and colleagues used a 3D printing-inspired process - based on their previous work fabricating artificial capillaries - to create blood vessels in the lab.
They placed a fibre mold 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.
The researchers removed the fibre to make a long microchannel in the root canal and inserted endothelial cells isolated from the interior lining of blood vessels.
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," said Bertassoni.
"We believe that this finding may change the way that root canal treatments are done in the future," he said.