New remedy for periodontal disease?

Inhibition of the body's own defense processes causes inflammation to be reduced

Hope for healthy teeth: Researchers have found an ingredient that could cure periodontal disease. © thinkstock / YanLev
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Good news for people with periodontitis: Perhaps there may soon be a new therapy for the bacterial infection of the dental bed. Researchers have found a drug that inhibits an immune protein and thereby prevents inflammation. In animal experiments, the periodontal disease improved significantly after only a few weeks of treatment, as the researchers report. They want to test the approach soon in the first studies on humans.

Periodontitis is a common disease. More than half of adults in Germany suffer from it - and even the ice mummy Ötzi tormented this inflammation. This is caused by the disease, commonly referred to as periodontal disease of bacteria. These settle on the plaque and form there solid deposits, so-called plaque, which settles mainly on the gingival margin and in the interdental spaces.

The first symptoms of periodontitis often include bleeding gums. If the infection spreads to the jawbone, it forms back - in extreme cases so far that the teeth become loose. In addition, the inflammation can also spread to the rest of the body and trigger, for example, atherosclerosis or arthritis. Fast and effective treatment is therefore particularly important. In addition to the usual therapy, in which the doctor removes, among other things, the harmful deposits, so far, however, there are hardly any alternative treatment options.

Scientists led by Tomoki Maekawa of the University of Pennsylvania have now tested a new therapeutic approach that interferes with the immune system of periodontal disease patients. Earlier studies had already shown that a specific component of the body's defense could be a suitable target for alleviating the symptoms of chronic inflammation.

Significant decrease in inflammation

Before-After: Up one tooth before treatment with Cp40, down after six weeks of therapy. © University of Pennsylvania

For their investigation, the researchers have used a drug called Cp40, which inhibits the body's protein C3. This protein is an important component of the so-called complement system. As part of the innate immune system, it initiates reactions that initiate inflammatory processes - a strategy to ward off unwanted intruders. display

In animal studies, the researchers injected Cp40 into tissue attacked by periodontitis. First, they administered the inhibitor three times a week. It quickly became clear that the inflammation was significantly reduced. Because of the good results, Maekawa and his colleagues then tried to give the drug to a second group only once a week and saw the same promising results.

Successful in humans too?

"After just one treatment, we saw a difference in the degree of inflammation, " says co-author George Hajishengallis. "After six weeks, the inflammation had dropped significantly. We were able to recognize this on the one side of the tooth bed and on the other hand also on the cellular and molecular level. "For example, the concentration of so-called inflammatory cytokines has decreased.

Contrary to what some experts suspect, blockade of the complement system has not led to more infections. Instead, the bacteria have disappeared with the inflammation, write the researchers. They now want to test as soon as possible whether their approach is also successful on human volunteers. (Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 2016; doi: 10.1111 / jcpe.12507)

(University of Pennsylvania, 09.03.2016 - DAL)