Science Market Update

Destroying Plaque With Enzymes at the University of Michigan

Posted by Sam Asher on Thu, May 14, 2015

Despite our advances in dental hygiene technology and promotion of healthy habits, plaque continues to plague our nation. Surveys indicate that nearly 39 percent of adults in the United States have periodontitis, also known as gum disease. At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a team of bioscientists is working to find more effective ways to destroy plaque.

alexhrAlexander Rickard (picture left, courtesy U-M School of Public Health) studies dental biofilms and how to fight them. If you ask him why, he’ll tell you:

 "Biofilms account for more than 50 percent of all hospital infections. Dental plaque biofilms contribute to the billions of dollars of dental treatments and office visits every year in the United States."

In an effort to reduce plaque, many dental experts turn to antimicrobial agents; however, the perennial problem with antimicrobials is that microbes eventually build up resistance to them. The last thing we need is plaque that we can’t brush away.

To find a better plaque-fighting method, Rickard needed a model of plaque in the human mouth. Not satisfied with current models, he and his team decided to create a new one entirely.

"Other laboratory model systems use one or a small panel of species," Rickard said in a University of Michigan article. "Dental plaque biofilms can contain tens to hundreds of species, hence our model better mimics what occurs in the mouth, giving us great research insight." 

The more robust model allowed Rickard to test several potential plaque destroyers. He found success in the form of a particular amino acid called arginine. Arginine is actually a fairly common amino acid found in many foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. The pictures below show just how much arginine destroys biofilm.


(Green biofilm before and after application of arginine, courtesy Rickard lab)

Rickard and his team are still studying how arginine so effectively disintegrates plaque. So far, it seems arginine can stop bacteria of many sorts from clinging to surfaces, so that instead of taking residence on teeth and gums, they just float along harmlessly. Rickard hopes to develop dental treatment based on this potent enzyme.

Funding for this study came from several UM start-up funds.  For more detailed funding statistics regarding the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, read on with our Funding Statistics and Vendor Show Info report:

research funding

Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. pays a visit to the University of Michigan each year for its Ann Arbor BioResearch Product Faire™ held annually. The next such show will be held on July 23rd, 2015. Biotechnology Calendar is a full service event company that has produced on-campus, life science research trade shows nationwide for the past 20 years. We plan and promote each event to bring the best products and services to the finest research campuses across the country. If you are a university researcher or a laboratory product vendor, consider attending one of our on-campus trade shows. You can click below to view pricing for the Ann Arbor show or have a look at our 2015 schedule for a wider geographic selection.  

Tags: University of Michigan Ann Arbor, 2015, Ann Arbor, BioResearch Product Faire Event, MI, UMich

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