A topical gel that blocks the receptor for a metabolic by-product called succinate treats gum disease by suppressing inflammation and changing the makeup of bacteria in the mouth, according to a new study led by researchers at New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry and published in Cell Reports.
The research, conducted in mice and using human cells and plaque samples, lays the groundwork for a non-invasive treatment for gum disease that people could apply to the gums at home to prevent or treat gum disease.
Gum disease is one of the most prevalent inflammatory diseases, affecting nearly half of adults 30 and older. It is marked by three components: inflammation; an imbalance of unhealthy and healthy bacteria in the mouth; and, destruction of the bones and structures that support the teeth.
“No current treatment for gum disease simultaneously reduces inflammation, limits disruption to the oral microbiome, and prevents bone loss. There is an urgent public health need for more targeted and effective treatments for this common disease,” said Yuqi Guo, an associate research scientist in the Department of Molecular Pathobiology at NYU Dentistry and the study’s co-first author.
Past research has linked increased succinate — a molecule produced during metabolism — to gum disease, with higher succinate levels associated with higher levels of inflammation. Guo and her colleagues at NYU Dentistry also discovered in 2017 that elevated levels of succinate activate the succinate receptor and stimulate bone loss. These findings made the succinate receptor an appealing target for countering inflammation and bone loss — and potentially stopping gum disease in its tracks.