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News / September 13, 2010

Tissue engineers bone up on dental surgery

by Guy Hiscott

A research team at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) has created a novel collagen-hydroxyapatite bone graft substitute that may have applications in dentistry.

Speaking about the material, called HydroxyColl, principal investigator, Prof. Fergal O’Brien, said: ‘One of the things we are interested in is using this material as a bone void filler or as a coating for implants and, in fact, we have a project ongoing with the School of Dentistry at Trinity College. 

‘At this stage we have patent protection on the material. We’ve started the regulatory process – obviously to get any material into human trials you need to go through a regulatory process.

‘One of the things we are trying to do is to define the specific applications for where it could be used and the size of the defects it might be used in. Maxillofacial and oral surgery is one area we are very interested in because, obviously, it is a huge market and it is a problem for dentists that they end up with these big voids in the maxilla and the mandible that they sometimes need to fill. HydroxyColl could offer a form of anchorage for dental implants.’

Prof O'Brien and HydroxyColl

Prof. Fergal O’Brien pictured with the material

The material is highly porous, which allows cells to get right into the centre of it. HydroxyColl is also beneficial from a vascularisation perspective, and it allows waste products to be removed and the cells to achieve normal metabolic activity.

With a collagen base, there is no negative immune response and, thanks to the addition of hydroxyapatite, the material is stiff enough to fulfil all the criteria needed for bone tissue repair.

With the addition of a ceramic phase, the material is both osteo-inductive and osteo-conductive, so that it support bone tissue formation if filled with the body’s own cells and will attract cells to produce bone.

Prof. O’Brien commented: ‘To be honest, we would have been very happy to have something that was just purely osteo-conductive but what we see now is that the actual physical composition of the material, by adding the hydroxyapatite, is allowing it to have some pro-osteogenic effect. Its natural composition causes bone cells to form bone or stem cells to become bone cells.’

HydroxyColl is one of the technologies being presented at Enterprise Ireland’s Big Ideas Technology Showcase at Croke Park in October.