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UofL research holds promise of therapeutic approach for gum disease

Donald Demuth, PhD receives patent for novel biochemical discovery

Donald Demuth, PhD, working in the labUniversity of Louisville researchers are a step closer to eliminating periodontal disease through their work to develop synthetic molecules that prevent a bacteria responsible for the disease  from spreading throughout the mouth. 

The discovery could lead to the formulation of a mouth rinse, toothpaste or tooth varnish to prevent the pathogen from establishing itself orally.

Donald Demuth, PhD, associate dean for research and enterprise, UofL School of Dentistry, received a patent March 27, 2012 for his work to develop peptides that inhibit the interaction between P. gingivalis and Streptococcus gordonii and prevent P. gingivalis colonization of the mouth. Peptides are molecules formed when two or more amino acids join together; they are the building blocks of proteins in a cell.

“When P. gingivalis enters the oral environment, it seeks out interaction with the bacterium S. gordonii – an otherwise benign organism – in order to lay the ground work to propagate and ultimately gain a foothold below the gum line, leading to periodontal disease.

“UofL Oral Health and Systemic Disease Group director Richard Lamont characterized this bacterial interaction and based on those studies, my team developed a series of peptides that prevent P. gingivalis and S. gordonii from coming together,” Demuth said.

Demuth found that administering the peptide in an animal model prevented P. gingivalis related bone loss – the clinical symptom of periodontal disease -- and prevented the spread of the bacterium in the mouth.

“This is one of the first examples of a potential targeted therapeutic approach that may control periodontal disease,” he said.

Demuth is building his research through collaboration with Frederick Luzzio, PhD, professor, UofL College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Chemistry. They hope to further develop organic molecule structures that mimic the active peptides.

“The molecules must be potent and cost effective to manufacture. We know of no chemical technology on the market that targets specific oral pathogens, and this is an exciting endeavor,” Luzzio said.

Luzzio and Demuth have a patent pending on certain discoveries related to this research.

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