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VRC researcher aims to rescue dental pulp from disease

April 09, 2018

By Kelly Ganski

Gaithersburg, Md. — Pulp vitality.

That's the name of the game for the research of Gili Kaufman, Ph.D., a project leader at the ADA Foundation Volpe Research Center. Dr. Kaufman and his team of researchers are developing a way to rescue dental pulp from disease rather than having to resort to performing a root canal.

Photo of Dr. Kaufman
Dr. Kaufman
"We would like to use the 3D organotypic cell-based extracellular matrix platforms, developed in our lab, to screen for a multifunctional drug that would be biocompatiable for the pulp and rescue the pulp from inflammatory or oxidative stress conditions while inducing mineralization and helping the pulp protect itself against microbial infections," Dr. Kaufman said. "Our major, super goal in all of this is pulp vitality."

The researchers would ultimately like to find a way for practicing dentists to avoid having to perform root canals, which can leave teeth more sensitive and vulnerable to breaking and decreases pain sensitivity. Dr. Kaufman and his team can infect this dental pulp model to create an environment such as is seen in abscesses and pulpitis then treat it to determine how it responds. This work also includes studying new dental materials that can be placed into a cavity to help rejuvenate the pulp.

"It is difficult to study dental pulps because they are located within live teeth, and new treatments often require many years of clinical trials," said Dr. Tom Hart, Ph.D., senior director of the Volpe Research Center. "Dr. Kaufman's goal is to help dentists provide more effective treatments, faster."

Dr. Kaufman holds a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology and cell biology from the Israel Institute of Technology. He came to the Volpe Research Center in 2013 after serving as a research scientist at the Public Health Research Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Dr. Kaufman wrote a paper on the subject that’s available online.

Dr. Kaufman's research fits in with the Volpe Research Center's current areas of focus: materials, sensors and devices. Their work on new dental materials includes improved bone cements and scientists there are developing sensors to detect the presence of disease or healthy states.

"Through research, the Volpe Research Center contributes to the improvement of dental practice and patient care and, ultimately, advances the oral health of the public," Dr. Hart said.

The ADA Foundation Volpe Research Center is seeking input and ideas from ADA members in generating and developing materials and technologies that enable ADA dentists provide state-of-the-art, precision care. ADA members with input can send their ideas to Dr. Hart at

The Volpe Research Center has more information about its research online.