Case Study

Filling without drilling: New applications for SAP technology

Date: July 23, 2014

Self-assembling peptide (SAP) technology developed at the University of Leeds is now being used by dentists to repair lesions caused by tooth decay. Credentis, a Swiss-based dental technology company, has commercialised it in two new products, Curadont Repair™ and Curadont Protect™.

This highly-innovative approach came from research led by Professor Jennifer Kirkham and Dr Amalia Aggeli from the Schools of Dentistry and Chemistry. Originally dubbed ‘filling without drilling’, a low-viscosity, protein-based liquid is painted onto the tooth’s surface and infiltrates into the pores of early tooth decay lesions. The peptides (synthesised from naturally-occurring biological molecules) in the liquid self-assemble in the pores to form a 3D scaffold structure which attracts calcium ions and phosphate ions from the body fluids to form crystals of calcium phosphate, creating the mineral crystals that make bones and teeth strong. This process mirrors the body’s natural enamel formation process, resulting in the natural repair of the tooth from the inside, without pain or discomfort to the patient.

The Leeds team has continued working on SAP technology to make the processes work faster and funding from the Medical Technologies IKC and Credentis is allowing Professor Kirkham to work on a co-development project with Credentis generating new peptides based on natural skeletal proteins in order to improve design principles. The new peptides are being tested in a high throughput system and are due to go to patient trials toward the end of 2014.

Another new application of the SAP technology is being supported by Proof of Concept funding from Medical Technologies IKC. Peptides are being used to accelerate bone regeneration in maxillofacial surgery, particularly in the ‘sinus lift’ procedure (see pages 14-15) which is often necessary when placing implants in the upper jaw. Dr Julie Burke, a consultant in Oral Surgery and member of Professor Kirkham’s research team, is working on this project.

“We need to prove that these new technologies can work in a clinical setting and that’s where Medical Technologies IKC support comes in, not just for funding but to accelerate the translation of our research,” says Professor Kirkham. “The Medical Technologies IKC has also engendered an innovation community of academics, industry partners and professional innovation managers which sparks discussion on new approaches and has really helped me to understand the commercialisation process.”

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