New Study on the Treatment of Gum Disease in Diabetic Patients

There is a well documented relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes, and while it isn’t fully understood, it is known that gum disease is very difficult to treat in patients with Type 2 diabetes. For patients without diabetes, periodontal disease is often treated with just a few visits to the dentist. But for those with the disease, the condition can spread very quickly due to systemic inflammation, often leading to tooth loss and massive erosion of the jawbone, according to an article from Tufts Dental Medicine, the magazine associated with the Tufts University Dental Alumni Association.

“Diabetic patients have a much higher chance of developing periodontitis than the rest of the population, and when they do get it, it’s very difficult to handle,” said Jake Jinkun Chen, a professor and molecular biologist at Tufts School of Dental Medicine.

Chen’s lab at the university is exploring a potential new way to treat resistant cases with an experimental drug. The hormone adiponectin helps regulate glucose levels and the breakdown of fatty acids, and the new drug mimics this in the body. Adiponectin is produced by fat cells and signals the body to generate more bone in areas where is is lacking. According to Chen, bone is actually a moving organ in the body, constantly being produced and broken down by cells, osteoblasts and osteoclasts.

“In healthy bone, osteoblasts and osteoclasts are constantly working together,” he said. “There’s a balance of bone resorption and bone formation. In periodontal disease, though, that balance is thrown off. There’s excess resorption and bone loss.”

Adiponectin helps the body reverse bone loss by telling osteoclast cells, which absorb lost bone, to slow down while coaxing osteoblasts, the body’s bone makers, into creating new bone. The hormone isn’t ideal for treating periodontal disease though, as it would have to be continuously administered through an IV. And because it is a protein, it can cause an intense immune reaction in some patients. To combat these issues, Chen is working with the experimental compound AdipoRon, which was developed in 2013 in Japan. Studies of the compound in mice suggest that it doesn’t pose a threat to the body’s immune system.  Chen and his team are hoping to learn more about AdipoRon in a new study.

People with Type 2 diabetes are able to produce some insulin, but not enough to control blood sugar levels properly. These individuals often suffer from chronic inflammation, a complication that has been connected to several other conditions, including cancer, insulin resistance and atherosclerotic disease. Chen’s research is currently focused on diabetic periodontitis, but he hopes his work can be used to explore other areas in the future. Chen theorizes that the drug might be able to help in the bone fusion necessary for successful dental implants, as well in the treatment of osteoporosis and bone fractures, both of which are serious concerns for diabetic patients.

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