Epigenetic therapeutics in dental pulp treatment: Hopes, challenges and concerns for the development of next-generation biomaterials

Henry F. Duncan, Yoshifumi Kobayashi, Michaela Kearney, Emi Shimizu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This opinion-led review paper highlights the need for novel translational research in vital-pulp-treatment (VPT), but also discusses the challenges in translating evidence to clinics. Traditional dentistry is expensive, invasive and relies on an outmoded mechanical understanding of dental disease, rather than employing a biological perspective that harnesses cell activity and the regenerative-capacity. Recent research has focussed on developing minimally-invasive biologically-based ‘fillings’ that preserve the dental pulp; research that is shifting the paradigm from expensive high-technology dentistry, with high failure rates, to smart restorations targeted at biological processes. Current VPTs promote repair by recruiting odontoblast-like cells in a material-dependent process. Therefore, exciting opportunities exist for development of next-generation biomaterials targeted at regenerative processes in the dentin-pulp complex. This article analyses recent research using pharmacological-inhibitors to therapeutically-target histone-deacetylase (HDAC) enzymes in dental-pulp-cells (DPCs) that stimulate pro-regenerative effects with limited loss of viability. Consequently, HDAC-inhibitors have the potential to enhance biomaterial-driven tissue responses at low concentration by influencing the cellular processes with minimal side-effects, providing an opportunity to develop a topically-placed, inexpensive bio-inductive pulp-capping material. Despite positive results, clinical translation of these innovations requires enterprise to counteract regulatory obstacles, dental-industry priorities and to develop strong academic/industry partnerships. The aim of this opinion-led review paper is to discuss the potential role of therapeutically-targeting epigenetic modifications as part of a topical VPT strategy in the treatment of the damaged dental pulp, while considering the next steps, material considerations, challenges and future for the clinical development of epigenetic therapeutics or other ‘smart’ restorations in VPT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)574-593
Number of pages20
JournalBioactive Materials
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


  • Epigenetics
  • Histone deacetylase inhibitors
  • Pulp capping
  • Regenerative endodontics
  • Vital pulp treatment


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