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Researchers uncover possible new target in fight against periodontitis.
Updated: 5/19/2009 7:00:48 PM

Researchers uncover possible new target in fight against periodontitis. A master protein may control the impairment of bone formation in serious gum disease, periodontitis, which involves losing bone fixing the tooth in place, according to a new paper by UCLA researchers.

In periodontitis, patients lose bone faster than new bone is formed. The mechanics of the bone loss are well understood, but how bone formation was impaired has been less clear.

In a paper published in the online edition of the journal Nature Medicine, researchers suggest that a master protein called nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB) is involved heavily in the process, and inhibiting its function helps maintain bone formation.

The American Academy of Periodontology says that mild to moderate periodontitis affects between 30-55 percent of adults, and 5 and 20 percent of the population suffers from a more severe stage of the disease. It is one of the largest problems with dental health in the U.S., second only to cavities.

The NF-kB protein was well known to be involved in cells that resorb bone, but the UCLA researchers looked instead at its effects in inhibiting cells that form bone. They hope this will lead to better dental care for the disease.

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