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Study: Nanodiamonds can help treat oral-related disease, bone loss

November 04, 2013

By Kimber Solana, ADA News staff

Dr. Ho
Los Angeles—Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles discovered that diamonds at a much smaller scale than those found in jewelry could be used to stimulate bone growth, treat oral-related diseases and improve dental implants.

Nanodiamonds, which are about four to five nanometers in diameter and invisible to the human eye, have certain surface properties that deliver bone growth-promoting proteins more effectively than conventional approaches, the researchers found.

Nanodiamonds are soccer ball-shaped materials that are byproducts of mining and refining operations.

The study's findings could be used to improve treatment of osteonecrosis, and combat bone loss that can occur next to dental implants.

“When applying nanotechnology in dentistry, you want to find materials that make sense,” said Dr. Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine and co-director of the Jerry Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology at the UCLA School of Dentistry.

“You want a material that's safe, commonly found or widely made and versatile,” he said. “Nanodiamonds fit that mold.”

Dr. Ho's team studied nanodiamonds as a delivery vehicle for bone morphogenetic proteins, which are used to promote bone formation in certain procedures—such as oral and maxillofacial surgeries—and basic fibroblast growth factor.

BMPs are currently delivered to the surgical site through bulky collagen sponges, Dr. Ho said.

Using nanodiamonds, the solution can be delivered through noninvasive procedures such as an oral rinse or injection.

The study, published in September in the Journal of Dental Research, found that nanodiamonds bind quickly to both fibroblast growth factor and BMPs, and the material's unique surface allows a slower and more sustained release of the treatment solution.

“These nanodiamonds eliminate burst release which is when treatment drugs are released too much, too quickly,” said Dr. Ho. “For example, burst release can be a problem during cancer treatment causing the drugs to hurt patients more than the cancer.”

The study on nanodiamonds' effect on dental implants grew out of his team's previous research that found nanodiamonds improved the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

The team decided to investigate if the material can also help treat bone loss, a side effect of chemotherapy.

Dr. Ho said the discovery could help advance the use of nanotechnology in dentistry.

However, he said, it may take another “couple of years” before nanodiamonds are used in practice. His team continues to look into its safety before it moves toward clinical use.