Fighting periodontal diseases with nanoparticles results in award

November 29, 2018

 Dr. Jill Steinbach-Rankins wants to see you smile. Thanks to her work with nanoparticles as a platform to help combat periodontal disease, this past summer she received the 2018 Recipient of the Inaugural Oral Delivery Focus Group Young Investigator Award from the Controlled Release Society.

“I’ve been a member of this society since my postdoctoral position,” said Steinbach-Rankins. “The Controlled Release Society’s focus is on drug or biologic delivery platforms for a variety of different applications. I was fortunate to receive this award and to be nominated.”

Since 1978, the Controlled Release Society has served as a community resource for the timed and spatial regulation of a diverse range of agents typically used for medicines, agriculture, or cosmetic and consumer products.

The organization has grown to include several CRS Focus Groups, centered around the areas of ocular drug delivery, oral drug delivery, nanomedicine and nanoscale drug delivery, gene delivery and gene editing, and bioinspired and biomimetic drug delivery.

It was at their most recent conference that Steinbach-Rankins was recognized for her work, a collaboration with Dr. Donald Dumuth from the Department of Oral Immunology and Infectious Diseases.

“Dr. Demuth’s group has developed a peptide, BAR, that prevents the adhesion of two species of bacteria, thereby preventing the initiation of periodontal diseases,” said Steinbach-Rankins. “Periodontal diseases are most commonly manifested as gingivitis, or more chronically as periodontitis.”

Treatments to prevent periodontal diseases continue to involve, from routine dental hygiene to the use of complex peptides. Of the over 500 species of bacteria in your mouth, some stimulate the progression of the disease. But with Demuth’s peptide, some were prevented from causing localized tissue inflammation and bone loss.

To increase the potency and to prolong the activity of BAR peptide, Steinbach-Rankins and her group were invited to collaborate. Those efforts have proven efficacious, while concurrently expanding her research base.

“They asked if we could use nanoparticles to enhance the potency of their peptide,” said Steinbach-Rankins. “My group, we work on these little nanoparticles. You can either encapsulate this peptide in the particles for a sustained-release platform, or you can decorate the surface of your particle to enhance binding and adhesion to (here, oral) tissue.”

Steinbach-Rankins’ research focuses on the development of delivery platforms for active agents against sexually transmitted infections and the utilization of these platforms to specifically target bacteria, viruses and host cells. Her collaboration and the recognition that has come along with it, has given her new avenues to grow her research.

“It’s been very cool for me, because I began my faculty position with more of a virus and cancer background. This project has given me the opportunity to expand our work into bacterial niches (no pun intended) in the oral cavity and female reproductive tract” said Steinbach-Rankins about bridging the gap between her previous and current research. “Contributing to this project has helped broaden our expertise to address significant and often coinciding bacterial infection initiatives.”