PhotOral launched to develop “blue light” consumer device to combat gum disease
|December 6, 2011||Posted by Anharris under Cool Companies, Health, Life Science, Technology|
[Disclosure: please see below]
Two Forsyth Institute scientists and a Lexington, MA entrepreneur have launched PhotOral (TM)to develop and market the first consumer device using blue light to combat gum sisease.
Scientists Nikos Soukos, director of Forsyth’s Applied Molecular Photomedicine Laboratory and J. Max Goodson, senior member of the staff, found when testing the effectiveness of blue light in tooth whitening equipment, their patients’ gum health improved. They determined through research published in 2005 (see below) that such light can selectively kill pathogenic oral bacteria–without harming so-called “good bacteria” that exist in normal mouths–and began work on a device.
This year, Forsyth received a patent for the proposed blue-light treatment method; Soukos, Goodson and entrepreneur Stamatis Astra founded PhotOral; and, in September, PhotOral received an exclusive license from Forsyth to commercialize the technology.
The device will look “either like a mouth guard or a lollipop,” Soukos said.
It will work by shining certain light wavelengths onto the teeth, which act as mirrors to deliver the light to dental pockets between the teeth. Inserted into the mouth twice a day for 30-60 seconds, it should selectively target pathogenic bacteria and, as a cumulative effect, suppress them to prevent periodontal disease. It will not replace brushing or flossing–but, rather, will allow consumers an additional method for improving their oral health.
Most current consumer treatments–such as flossing, tooth brushing and antiseptics–seek to eliminate all sorts of the 700 bacteria found in the mouth, Soukos explained. But some of those bacteria are beneficial. “Our device aims to selectively target ‘bad bacteria’ in order to restore a healthy balance in the mouth.”
By doing so, the team hopes to help prevent or treat gingivitis, which occurs in 90% of adults, and periodontitis, which affects some 34% of adults in the US over 30. Severe periodontitis, which may be treated with medication, by scaling and planning or surgically, affects 13% of all adults. It can lead to loss of bone and teeth and is suggested as a risk factor for coronary based heart disease, atherosclerosis, pre-term births and chronic kidney disease.
Stamatis, the PhotOral CEO, said he is currently raising funds to support prototype production, clinical trials and marketing operations. “The potential market for the device is greater than $7B”
Soukos and Goodson’s research, published in the April, 2005 Journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, suggested that light in the blue region of the visible spectrum might be useful in preventing, controlling or treating periodontitis-an oral infection that can lead to loss of bone and teeth.
Among the most destructive oral bacteria are the so-called “black-pigmented” bacteria (BPB), which are implicated as pathogens associated with periodontitis. Such bacteria accumulate black pigment consisting mainly of organic compounds called porphyrins . Some porphyrins are photosensitive and, when activated by light, induce a photodynamic reaction that kills the microorganism within seconds.
Before starting their research, Soukos and Goodson knew that other researchers had used lasers to deliver red or green light, which partially inactivated certain oral bacterial. The team also knew, from published reports, that porphyrins absorb blue light more readily than light that is red or green.
The Forsyth scientists employed a halogen lamp source commonly used for tooth whitening to shine broadband light composed mainly of blue and a small percentage of green light on pure cultures of BPB and on dental plaque samples obtained from individuals with chronic periodontitis. They found that the light rapidly killed BPB in pure cultures and that it selectively eliminated BPB in plaque samples containing 50o0-6000 different bacteria. They also found that certain species were more readily inactivated by the light than others and that varying the intensity and exposure time had different impacts on different bacterial species. The researchers concluded that intraoral light exposure can selectively reduce pathogens in dental plaque.
–Anita M. Harris
Anita Harris is president of the Harris Communications Group, a Cambridge, MA public relations firm specializing in strategic communications, thought leadership and content strategy for companies and organizations in health, science and technology, worldwide. The Forsyth Institute and Goodson are former clients; Soukos serves on her advisory board, and she is an unpaid advisor to PhotOral. Harris won a 2006 International Communicator Award for her work in publicizing the Forsyth “Blue Light ” paper. She also blogs at New Cambridge Observer.