A topical gel to fight gum disease developed by scientists at NYU College of Dentistry was the winning innovation of this year’s STAT Madness, a virtual tournament celebrating recent breakthroughs in science and medicine.
The NYU Dentistry research beat out 63 other studies from across the country in the March Madness-inspired competition—making it the first time that research from a dental school has won STAT Madness.
“We are so excited that our team’s innovative research has won this competition. It is a recognition of the importance of discoveries in oral health, as our research will provide an alternative treatment to the most prevalent oral disease,” said Xin Li, professor of molecular pathobiology at NYU Dentistry, who led the study with Deepak Saxena, Yuqi Guo, and Fangxi Xu, also of the Department of Molecular Pathobiology at NYU Dentistry.
Gum disease affects nearly half of adults 30 and older. The three hallmarks of gum disease are inflammation, an imbalance of unhealthy and healthy bacteria in the mouth, and bone loss. The gel developed by the NYU team works by blocking a receptor for a metabolic byproduct called succinate, which suppresses inflammation and, as a result, changes the makeup of bacteria in the mouth and prevents bone loss.
The research behind the gel, conducted in mice and using human cells and plaque samples, was published in September in Cell Reports and lays the groundwork for a convenient, targeted treatment. The researchers are continuing to study the gel in animal models to find the appropriate dosage and timing for application, as well as determine any toxicity. Their long-term goal is to develop a gel and oral strip that can be used at home by people with or at risk for gum disease, as well as a stronger formulation that dentists can apply to pockets that form in the gums during gum disease.
STAT News chose the 64 studies for this year’s competition based on originality, the scientific rigor of the research, and its potential impact on patients and society. More than 145,000 votes were cast by the public in STAT Madness 2023.