Penn Dental Study Reverses Signs of Naturally Occurring Chronic Periodontitis

Philadelphia, USA – Periodontitis, a gum disease present in nearly half of all adults in the US, involves inflammation, bleeding and bone loss. In its severe form, it is associated with systemic inflammatory conditions such as atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Few treatment options exist beyond dental scaling and root planing, done in an attempt to reduce plaque and inflammation.

Now, with findings from a study co-led by Dr. George Hajishengallis, Thomas W. Evans Centennial Professor in Penn Dental Medicine’s Department of Microbiology, there is new hope that the disease can be effectively reversed.

The work, which appears in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, employed an inhibitor of a protein called C3, a component of the body’s complement system, which is involved in immunity and inflammatory responses. Delivering this inhibitor, Cp40, to the periodontal tissue just once a week reversed naturally occurring chronic periodontitis inflammation in a pre-clinical model.

Dr. John D. Lambris of the Perelman School of Medicine was co-senior author on the study, which is the result of years of collaboration.

“Even after one treatment, you could see a big difference in inflammation,” said Dr. Hajishengallis. “After six weeks, we saw reversal in inflammation, both clinically and by looking at cellular and molecular measures.”

This study builds on earlier work by the team, which identified C3 as a promising target for treating periodontal disease. C3, or the third component of the complement system, is a key part of signalling cascades that trigger inflammation and activate the innate immune system. Their previous research, which used an inducible model of periodontal disease, found that Cp40 could reduce signs of the disease.

To get closer to a natural scenario, however, the current work was conducted on animals that naturally had developed chronic periodontitis. Initially, the research team tried administering Cp40 three times a week, but after seeing significant reductions in inflammation, they tried giving it only once a week to a different group and saw the same positive results.

This study delivered the drug via a local injection. There were no adverse effects reported.

The researchers are even more encouraged that this treatment worked well as a stand-alone therapy; in humans, they said, it would be given in addition to the standard of care scaling and root planing. They are planning to pursue a Phase 1 safety and efficacy study in human volunteers.