There’s not a whole lot to like about fillings, what with the prodding, scraping and jabbing and all. And that’s before the drill even comes out (followed by the bill at the end). Tending to our cavities might one day be a much more comfortable experience, with scientists discovering that a type of Alzheimer’s drug can actually stimulate stem cells within the tooth pulp to promote natural repair instead.
The drug in question is a small molecule called a glycogen synthase kinase (GSK-3) inhibitor.
GSK-3 is an enzyme that has been linked with a number of diseases including cancer, bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s, so molecules currently under development that inhibit its activity could one day play an important part in treatment of such conditions.
Now, scientists at King’s College London have found that such inhibitors could have a role in maintaining pearly whites, too. Their research focuses on a signaling pathway called Wnt/β-cat, which is activated as an early response to tissue damage, and is thought to be critical for driving cellular-based repair in all tissues. By further promoting its activity in teeth, the team believes that they can enhance their self-repairing capabilities.
“The inhibitor activates a signaling pathway that stimulates stem cells in the tooth to make specialized cells that carry out the repair,” Paul Sharpe, lead author of the study, tells New Atlas.