Toothpaste research gets funding

Prof George Dias, of the University of Otago anatomy department. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Prof George Dias, of the University of Otago anatomy department. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Work to develop a smart bioactive toothpaste, to reduce visits to the dentist, is among University of Otago research projects funded by new Health Research Council grants.

Nine Otago University researchers have gained grants totalling $1.65million, in two funding groups: emerging researcher and explorer.

Prof George Dias, of the anatomy department, was yesterday "extremely happy’’ to have gained a $150,000 explorer grant, with co-investigators Associate Prof Vincent Bennani and Dr Niranjan Ramesh.

The funding would greatly help and he was "very positive’’ about the likely outcome.

Recognising the surging costs of dental care, resulting in thousands of New Zealanders not going to the dentist, Prof Dias said his team aimed to develop a bioactive smart toothpaste to provide "an affordable clinical grade formulation to mitigate oral infections and ensure implant longevity’’.

New Zealand Ministry of Health figures showed 40,000 children under the age of 15, and 270,000 adults had one or more teeth removed due to decay, abscess, infection, or gum diseases in 2018 and 2019.

There was "an inherent and immediate need to improve the oral health outcomes among all ethnic groups in the country’’ by developing smart, affordable and clinically effective solutions that were easily accessible through supermarkets and pharmacies, he said.

The proposed toothpaste will be made from a modified bio-ceramic material that will help restore damage to the tooth surface, he said.

Dr Claire Henry, of the Otago department of obstetrics, gynaecology and women’s health in Wellington, was awarded an emerging researcher grant of almost $250,000 for her project focusing on endometrial cancer, sometimes called uterine cancer.

This is New Zealand's most common gynaecological cancer and is rising in incidence and particularly affecting young Pasifika and Maori women.

"We aim to develop a better understanding of endometrial cancer biology which could lead to identifying new therapeutic targets and future research," Dr Henry says.

Other Otago grants. —

Emerging researcher: Dr Rachelle Martin, Wellington campus, $249,009; Dr Narun Pornpattananangkul, $249,999.78.

Explorer grants (all $150,000): Dr Sarah Appleby, and Prof Tim Woodfield, Christchurch campus; Dr Yusuf Cakmak, Dr Graham Eyres, Dr Martin Fronius.


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