"Tooth on a chip"- A microfluidic device to test interactions of biomaterials with dental structures

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The development of novel dental biomaterials requires in vitro validation and cytotoxicity studies; however, research platforms that accurately emulate the oral environment, the interface between biomaterials with the tooth, and the underlying dental pulp, do not currently exist. This is traditionally done by exposing plated cells to eluents of biomaterials, or using animal models. OHSU researcher Dr. Luiz Bertassoni has developed the first-of-its-kind tooth-on-a-chip platform that replicates both the tooth's key components to test dental materials in a more clinically relevant manner.

Technology Overview

Dental materials applied to the tooth are known to interact with the dentin-pulp complex in a dynamic way as such material elicits a response from the tooth and vice-versa. More than 500 million direct dental restorations are placed every year globally, resulting in market size for dental materials valued at USD 1.5 billion with projection to reach USD 2 billion by 2026. This considerably sized market includes dental cements, bonding agents, and other restorative materials, some of which will be in direct contact with the dental pulp for years. Therefore, biocompatibility assessment of dental materials is of utmost importance to ensure patient’s safety. Currently, the testing of such biomaterials is often done by administering test compounds directly to dental pulp cells cultured in vitro. However, this does not fully replicate the in vivo oral environment that has saliva, biofilm, hard and soft tissues, changes in pH, temperature, etc. Dr. Bertassoni has developed a tooth-on-a-chip microfluidic device which better replicates the architecture and dynamics of the dentin–pulp interface for biomaterial testing. The design consists of two chambers separated by a dentin fragment, with cultured dental pulp cells on one side, and restorations performed on the other (see Figure). Pulp cells cultured in this device responded more physiologically to treatments like acid application and restorations with dental cements. The morphologic, metabolic and functional influence of biomaterials on dental pulp cells and bacteria can be investigated in real-time, on a miniaturized scale to reduce cost and increase translatability of results.

Franca et al., "The tooth on-a-chip: a microphysiologic model system mimicking the biologic interface of the tooth with biomaterials.” Lab on a Chip (2020):405-413. Link

Licensing Opportunity

This technology is available for licensing.


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Lisa Lukaesko
Technology Development Manager
Oregon Health & Science University
Luiz Bertassoni
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