Examining use of anti-ageing drug in periodontal disease

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First-ever study to examine use of anti-ageing drug in periodontal disease

A recent study has received US Food and Drug Administration approval for evaluating the drug rapamycin in older adults with periodontal disease. (Image: RossHelen/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Mon. 11 March 2024

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SEATTLE, US: Ageing greatly affects overall health and is the greatest risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and periodontal disease. However, these conditions are often treated on a case-by-case basis rather than targeting the underpinning process of ageing. Now, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a first-of-its-kind study that will evaluate the effect of rapamycin in older adults with periodontal disease. Rapamycin is an FDA-approved drug that is often used in anti-ageing research and has been shown to extend lifespan and improve health span in various species.

Previous studies have shown that rapamycin can improve the ageing process in mice by inhibiting a process, called the mTOR pathway, that cells use to control growth and energy use based on the nutrients and signals they receive from their environment. Although some studies have already used rapamycin and its derivatives on humans, the current study is the first one to be approved by the FDA to examine its effect on oral health and periodontal disease.

“If periodontal disease is age-related, and rapamycin can target the ageing process and improve it, then we want to find out what happens to periodontal disease when rapamycin is used,” Dr Jonathan An, an assistant professor of oral health sciences at the University of Washington, commented in a press release.

In the study, the researchers will provide rapamycin to adults who are over 50 and who have had periodontal disease for over eight weeks. The participants will then undergo professional tooth cleaning.

“Currently, if you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, you get the same treatment if you are 40 as when you’re 50 or 60 years old,” Dr An noted. “So, for these older adults, if we give them rapamycin beforehand, we may be able to alter their immune responses so they get a better treatment outcome than merely alleviating their symptoms on a surface level.”

“Impacting periodontal disease with rapamycin could not only change the way we do dentistry but could also positively impact ageing globally.”

Additionally, the researchers are planning to work with local clinics and research groups to investigate the impact of rapamycin on the participants’ systemic health. For example, they will analyse markers for biological ageing and the oral microbiome.

“Periodontal disease has been thought to be correlated to heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, all of which share the underlying risk factor of age,” Dr An commented. “Impacting periodontal disease with rapamycin could not only change the way we do dentistry but could also positively impact ageing globally,” he concluded.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, periodontal disease affects over 70% of adults over the age of 65. The estimated cost of untreated periodontal disease in the US is an estimated $154 billion (€138 billion).

More information about the study can be found here.

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