Creative Biomolecules Inc. in Hopkinton, Mass., is testing a way to stave off root-canal operations by regenerating dentin, the tooth's natural guardian. Calcium-rich dentin lies just beneath the tooth's enamel and protects the tooth's nerve and blood supply, the pulp. Dentin decay allows the pulp to become infected. Root canal removes the infected pulp and fills it with a rubbery compound. But that cuts off the blood supply, and the tooth gradually becomes brittle.
Taking a more biological approach, Creative Biomolecules has developed a dentin-regeneration product based on OP-1, a protein that apparently stimulates uncommitted cells to lay down dentin. This month, the Food & Drug Administration granted approval for human trials. Creative Biomolecules Chairman Charles Cohen says OP-1 may have applications in bone reconstruction and the treatment of osteoporosis.