Laboratory model enables researchers to explore the mouth’s response to oral disease

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Researchers in England have created a three-dimensional model of the oral mucosa that can be used in studies to test its response to a range of bacterial and other infections. 

The model, created by experts in dentistry and immunology at the University of Plymouth—and described in the Journal of Tissue Engineering—is formed from a collagen hydrogel containing cell types commonly found in the human body.

In a series of tests, the researchers analysed the model’s response to a range of pathogens including Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus.

They found it behaved similarly to responses observed in other studies involving real patients, indicating it could be implemented for the wider study of oral infection.

Specifically, they plan to use it to assess how the oral mucosa—the tissue similar to skin which lines the inside of the mouth, including the inside of cheeks and lips—might respond to long-term denture wear.

With epithelium not limited to the oral cavity, the researchers also believe such models may also have a potential research role for illnesses of the digestive system, such as Crohn’s disease.

“Developing three-dimensional tissue models is a critical element of our dental research,” study leader Dr Vehid Salih said.

“They offer a degree of versatility that mimics the in vivo physiology of a specific tissue, as well as a reproducible and controllable process that we can use to investigate particular pathologies and diseases.

“The results we have seen from this particular model suggest it is a recreation of the oral cavity that we can use for a wide range of dental research. That includes the testing of oral healthcare products or modelling oral cancer invasion, periodontal disease and denture stomatitis. The model could also be developed further to offer the potential of determining the wider immune response to infection through the incorporation of multiple immune-cell types.”

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