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

When it comes to diamonds, size may not matter.

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

“When applying nanotechnology in dentistry, you want to find materials that make sense,” 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.”

Nanodiamonds, which are about 20,000 times smaller than a strand of hair, have certain surface properties that help deliver bone growth-promoting proteins more effectively than conventional approaches. 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—severe bone loss of the jaw bone—and combat bone loss that can occur next to dental implants.

Dr. Ho’s team studied nanodiamonds as a way to deliver a solution that includes proteins that promote bone growth for certain procedures—such as oral and maxillofacial surgeries. Such proteins are typically delivered to a surgical site through bulky collagen sponges, Dr. Ho said.

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

The study, published in September in the Journal of Dental Research, also found that nanodiamond’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 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.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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