Scientists have discovered that tiny spherical diamonds could be used to promote bone growth and improve the durability of dental implants, so in the future humans could have diamond-encrusted teeth to improve oral health and fight disease.
The miniscule gems, which are invisible to the human eye, could be used to combat forms of bone loss including osteonecrosis, which is a potentially debilitating disease in which bones break down due to reduced blood flow.
Scientists from UCLA and the NanoCarbon Research Institute in Japan discovered that nanodiamonds which are tiny by-products of conventional mining could be used as a delivery system for proteins in the mouth as an improved treatment for osteonecrosis.
Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine at the UCLA School of Dentistry, led the study published in the Journal of Dental Research. He explained that doctors performing bone repair operations, which are typically costly and time-consuming, surgically inset a sponge to administer proteins that promote bone growth. His team discovered that using nanodiamonds to deliver these proteins could be more effective in administering the proteins as they quickly bind to the bone.
The unique surface of the diamonds allows the proteins to be delivered more slowly, which may allow the affected area to be treated for a longer period of time and the nanodiamonds can even be administered non-invasively, such as by an injection or even a mouthwash.
What is osteonecrosis?
- Osteonecrosis is a disease caused by reduced blood flow to bones in the joints.
- In people with healthy bones, new bone is always replacing old bone. In osteonecrosis, the lack of blood causes the bone to break down faster than the body can make enough new bone.
- The bone starts to die and may break down.
- The main signs and symptoms of jaw necrosis include exposed bone that does not heal, pain, gum infection, poor healing of gums, loose teeth, and numbness in the jaw
Osteonecrosis can be a side effect of chemotherapy, which is why the group of scientists decided to examine whether nanodiamonds might help treat bone loss as well.
Results from the new study could pave the way for more research into how nanodiamonds could be used to address different challenges in drug delivery.