Hydrogel template for a better integration into soft tissue

Hydrogel template (Image: FHNW, NovoNexile)

In the Nano Argovia project LIGARECO, researchers from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), the University of Basel and the industrial partner NovoNexile AG are investigating the prophylactic use of a hydrogel template to prevent inflammation around dental implants. The project is led by Dr. Joachim Köser (FHNW) and Dr. Khaled Mukaddam (University of Basel).

Lack of integration
Nowadays, the placement of dental implants is an everyday procedure at dental practices, with implants offering numerous advantages for patients. Sooner or later, however, one in four cases is affected by inflammation around the implant (peri-implantitis), which can sometimes even result in the loss of the implant.
These inflammatory processes can be attributed to a lack of integration of the implant into the surrounding soft tissue. Until now, efforts have focused on anchoring the implant safely and securely into the bone, but it is also necessary to ensure an optimum connection between the soft tissue and the implant.

In the case of a natural tooth, a structure consisting of radial collagen fibers, known as the peridontal ligament, creates a stable connection between the tooth and the surrounding tissue. With implants, these bundles of collagen are sometimes also formed on the soft-tissue side, but they generally have a different orientation than they would with a natural tooth. The bond is mechanically weaker and can allow the entry of inflammatory bacteria.

Jaw with two implants. Left: unguided soft-tissue growth around an implant; right: a diagram of the hydrogel template with growth channels. This template is inserted between the bone and the exposed soft tissue during implantation. (Image: K. Mukaddam, UZB, FHNW)

Anchor into the soft tissue
In the Nano Argovia project LIGARECO, the aim is now to develop an absorbable, microstructured hydrogel template that is designed to stimulate the targeted formation of collagen fibers around dental implants. Like with a natural tooth, these fibers are intended to anchor the implant collar into the surrounding soft tissue more effectively in order to form a barrier that prevents the entry of bacteria and therefore protects the implant against bacterial infections.

In addition to the two project leaders – Dr. Joachim Köser (FHNW School of Life Sciences) and Dr. Khaled Mukaddam (University Center for Dental Medicine Basel, UZB) – the project team also includes Professor Sebastian Kühl (UZB) and Dr. Stefano Tugulu from NovoNexile AG (Füllinsdorf, Basel-Landschaft). The researchers are initially investigating the production of the hydrogel template. They will then turn their attention to the functional microstructuring and nanostructuring of the hydrogels, which control the settlement of ligament-forming cells and the formation of the desired fibers.

“The Nano Argovia program is a valuable opportunity to work with two leading regional institutions, in the form of the FHNW and the University of Basel, in order to develop the next generation of functional biomaterials.”

Dr. Stefano Tugulu, founder and director of NovoNexile AG


Additional information

NovoNexile AG
School of Life Sciences (FHNW)
University Center for Dental Medicine Basel (UZB)