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Scientists Use Nanobots to Eliminate Bacteria in Root Canals

According to the American Association of Endodontists, approximately 25 million root canal treatments are performed annually, and over 90% of them are successful. To address treatment failure due to inadequate decontamination of the root canal system, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and nanorobotics company Theranautilus have demonstrated that nano-sized robots can be effectively employed to kill bacteria in the dentinal tubules.

“The dentinal tubules are very small, and bacteria reside deep in the tissue. Current techniques are not efficient enough to go all the way inside and kill the bacteria,” Shanmukh Srinivas, a research associate at the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering (CeNSE) at IISc and one of the co-founders of Theranautilus, said in a press release.

In the study, researchers explored the potential of actively manoeuvred nanobots to disinfect dentinal tubules. Injected into extracted tooth samples, the nanobots were able to penetrate deep inside the dentinal tubules under the control of a device that generates a low-intensity magnetic field. By manipulating the magnetic field, the researchers were able to cause the surface of the nanobots to generate heat to kill bacteria nearby. “No other technology in the market can do this right now,” explained lead author Dr Debayan Dasgupta, a research associate at CeNSE and a co-founder of Theranautilus.

The findings showed that the nanobots were able to penetrate up to 2,000 μm into the dental tubules, thus having more penetration depth compared to ultrasonic and laser-activated irrigation. The researchers believe that using heat to kill bacteria is a safe alternative to using harsh chemical agents or antibiotics to decontaminate a root canal.

“We are very close to deploying this technology in a clinical setting, which was considered futuristic even three years ago,” co-author Dr Ambarish Ghosh, a professor at CeNSE, commented. “It is a joy to see how a simple scientific curiosity is shaping into a medical intervention that can impact millions of people in India alone,” he concluded.

To this end, the researchers are currently working on developing a novel medical device that can be easily placed inside the patient’s mouth and allows the dentist to inject and manipulate the nanobots inside the teeth during root canal therapy.

Research pictures on dental nanobots
(a) Nanobots entering a dentinal tubule. (b & c) Schematic representation and electron microscope image of a nanobot moving through a dentinal tubule to reach a bacterial colony. (d & e) Locally induced heat from the nanobot killing bacteria. Live bacteria are green, and dead bacteria are red. (f) Band of targeted treatment done in human teeth. (Image: Theranautilus)

Researchers at Theranautilus (initially a laboratory spin-off from the institute) had previously demonstrated that magnetically controlled nanoparticles can trap and move objects using light, pass through blood and into living cells, and adhere firmly to cancer cells. After testing the dental nanobots in mice models, they deemed that the nanobots are safe to use in biological tissue.



Dr Shilpa Subramanian

Dr. Shilpa Subramanian is a Periodontist and currently manages Global Pharmacovigilance Operations at Indegene Pvt Ltd. She is passionate about staying ahead of the curve in clinical and non-clinical advances in the field of pharma and healthcare.

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