Grants and Philanthropy
College of Dentistry and Polytechnic Institute Share Grant to Develop New Weapon Against Harmful Oral Bacteria

From left: Dr. Ramiro Murata, Dr. Deepak Saxena, Dr. Simone Duarte, and Dr. Spencer Szu-pin Kuo. Inset, lower right, close-up of the plasma torch.

Researchers from the College of Dentistry and the Polytechnic Institute of NYU have been awarded a one-year NYU-Polytechnic Institute Seed Grant for Collabor-ative Research. The project aims to develop a new weapon against oral bacteria that cause dental caries and adhere to dental restorations, causing them to fail.

Co-principal investigators Dr. Simone Duarte, an Assistant Professor of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology at the College of Dentistry, and Dr. Spencer Szu-pin Kuo, a Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Polytechnic Institute, are examining whether an air plasma torch can kill microorganisms that adhere to tooth surfaces and dental implants and veneers, penetrate inside root canal treatments, and attack other types of restorations. Air plasma is a gaslike substance composed of oxygen, nitrogen, and electrons. The highly energized form of air plasma in the NYUCD-Polytechnic study contains free radicals, or reactive atoms and molecules, that can destroy microbes through chemical reactions.

Dr. Kuo will build the torch and Dr. Duarte will assess whether the air plasma can prevent bacteria from attaching to tooth surfaces and restorative materials such as alumina, zirconia, and microwave- and light-cured resins. Dr. Duarte and her coinvestigator, Dr. Deepak Saxena, an Assistant Professor of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology at NYUCD, will also determine how much air plasma is needed to kill the microorganisms in vitro.

The NYUCD-Polytechnic investigators hypothesize that air plasma, which is used to kill bacteria deep inside burn wounds, could destroy microorganisms that cause dental caries and seep into root canal treatments and other dental restorations. Implants and other prostheses could also be treated with air plasma to make their surfaces less susceptible to bacterial attachment. If it proves effective, the torch would be tested in a subsequent clinical trial involving human subjects.

In addition to Dr. Saxena, coinvestigators on the study are Dr. Van Thompson, Professor and Chair of the NYUCD Department of Biomaterials & Biomimetics; Dr. Ramiro Murata, an Associate Research Scientist in Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology; and Mr. Cheng-Yen Chen, a PhD candidate in Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Polytechnic Institute.