George Huang Receives $1.8 Million Grant Root Canal Treatment

George Huang Continues Research for Root Canal Treatment with $1.8 Million Grant Funding

Memphis, Tenn. (Dec. 11, 2012) – Four years ago, George Huang, DDS, began a study to determine the feasibility of taking tissue from a healthy tooth and placing it in a diseased root canal. He began the research at Boston University but, in May 2012, Dr. Huang joined the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). If this research is successful, it could change how root canals are performed.

“We are trying to revolutionize endodontics,” said Dr. Huang, who is director of Bioscience Research. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recently awarded $1.8 million in funding to Dr. Huang, extending a grant originally received in 2008. The new award funds will be distributed during the next three years.

The concept of trying to regenerate growth of a tooth by inserting stem cell tissue has been around since the 60s, but little progress has been made. Dr. Huang attributes the standstill to the lack of technology available at that time. Research on tissue engineering, as this type of science is known, has progressed considerably with the advancement of technology, including robotics. “In the past decade or so, the discipline of modern tissue engineering has become more advanced,” Dr. Huang said. “Coupled with a better understanding of stem cells, the science has given rise to a new field of study, regenerative medicine.”

Traditionally, a root canal involves removing decayed root tissue, or dental pulp, from the tooth’s canal and filling that space with an artificial rubber-like substance. If Dr. Huang’s research is successful, the canals that have been cleared would be injected with stem cell tissue. Not only would this technique avoid the need for the rubber-like filling, it could actually stimulate healthy tissue growth, essentially rebuilding the tooth.

“We isolate the stem cells, grow them and insert them back into the tooth,” Dr. Huang explained. “Eventually, the root will regenerate.” He estimated the cells might regenerate within a two-month period.

Thus far, similar research in other countries has been successful. A veteran endodontist, Dr. Huang said perfecting this method would offer patients a choice. His research also examines harvesting the stem cells from a person other than the patient. Clinical trials on humans could begin in the next 10 years.

[Research reported was supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health (NCI) under award No. R01DE019156. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIH.]

As the flagship statewide academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is to bring the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region, by pursuing an integrated program of education, research, clinical care, and public service. Offering a broad range of postgraduate and selected baccalaureate training opportunities, the main UTHSC campus is located in Memphis and includes six colleges: Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. UTHSC also educates and trains cohorts of medicine, pharmacy and/or allied health students — in addition to medical residents and fellows — at its major sites in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville. Founded in 1911, during its more than 100 years, UT Health Science Center has educated and trained more than 53,000 health care professionals in academic settings and health care facilities across the state. For more information, visit www.uthsc.edu.

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