University of Birmingham - Dr Richard Shelton
The current project’s objectives are to replace animal use in dental research by developing a 3D model of human gums that do not involve the use of any animal products. They want to be able to more closely mimic the in vivo environment and model clinical outcomes for tooth root implants in vitro.

Implants are often used in human dental treatment to replace missing teeth. Their success as treatments requires stable incorporation into the bone and gum throughout their lifetime. Unfortunately the gums around these implants can become diseased, which may then progress to the underlying bone and cause pain, needing surgery to either replace or remove the implants. Animal test methods are commonly used to test dental implants systems and to meet the legal requirements of the European Medicines Agency before they can be used in humans. Animals are also used to investigate gum disease and breakdown next to implants which can affect implant survival. In both examples animals undergo surgery to place the implants in either jaw bones or other bones.  Often the animals may receive anaesthetic several times to allow examinations before they are killed. Typically animals are housed for long periods (months to years) to observe reactions to the implants as these may occur relatively slowly. In addition, animals may also be used to collect cells which are cultured in a laboratory to observe how they respond.

The current project’s objectives are to replace animal use by developing a 3D model of human gums that does not involve the use of any animal products. The ultimate aim of the project is to be able to more closely mimic the in vivo environment and model clinical outcomes for tooth root implants in vitro.  The research team plan to identify strategies for improving clinical performance whilst also removing the requirement for the use of animals.