New customizable, strontium-filled scaffold could improve dental implant healing

Picture of several rings made out of gel in two glass jars, placed side by side.

Novel hydrogel scaffolds developed by the UB researchers containing various concentrations of strontium. Photo: Michelle Visser.

Researchers found that scaffolds loaded with strontium at any concentration stimulated wound healing

Release Date: December 9, 2022

Portrait of a woman with long hair and glasses wearing a white and gray shirt.
“Scaffold materials have been explored to promote bone and skin wound healing, but adaptations for the oral cavity are limited. ”
Michelle Visser, associate professor of oral biology
UB School of Dental Medicine

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A team of University at Buffalo researchers has developed a new strontium-loaded scaffold that can be personalized to fit any size dental implant and could help improve healing and tissue attachment in patients. 

The success of dental implants is dependent on the growth and adhesion of soft tissues to the implant surface. Previous research by UB investigators found that strontium, a bone-seeking element that improves bone density and strength, also supports soft tissue function. Strontium, they discovered, can promote the function of fibroblasts – a type of cell that forms connective tissues and plays a critical role in wound healing. 

The new study, published earlier this year in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, found that scaffolds loaded with strontium – even at low concentrations – promoted wound healing by stimulating gingival fibroblast activity.

“Scaffold materials have been explored to promote bone and skin wound healing, but adaptations for the oral cavity are limited,” says lead investigator, Michelle Visser, PhD, associate professor of oral biology in the UB School of Dental Medicine. “These novel scaffolds represent a system for effective strontium release in the oral cavity.”

To produce the scaffolds – which are porous structures that promote and guide cell growth – the researchers developed reusable, ring-shaped templates and molds. The flexible hydrogel scaffolds are infused with a range of strontium concentrations that are released in an initial burst over 24 hours, followed by a sustained dosage over four days with minimal toxicity.

Tested in the laboratory, the strontium-loaded scaffolds increased the cellular activity of isolated gingival fibroblasts cells, while the hydrogel scaffold alone had little effect on the cells.

Additional investigators include UB alums Shahad Bakheet Alsharif, co-first author and faculty member at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia; Rofida Wali, co-first author and faculty member at Umm Al-Qura University in Saudi Arabia; and Bhoomika Sheth, quantum dot production engineer at STMicroelectronics. UB faculty, staff and students involved in the study include Mark Swihart, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and chemical and biological engineering student Kaiwen Chen, both in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and Sebastiano Andreana, DDS, professor of restorative dentistry and director of implant dentistry, Rosemary Dziak, PhD, professor of oral biology, and Stephen Vanyo, research technician, all in the UB School of Dental Medicine. 

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Marcene Robinson is a former staff writer in University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, email or visit our list of current university media contacts.