Collaboration between two of the University of Illinois at Chicago's premier schools — the College of Dentistry and College of Engineering — has resulted in improved dental implant techniques. This partnership succeeded in refining the structure of collagen to make it suitable for use in dental implant placement.

The College of Dentistry at University of Illinois at Chicago has extensive programs to research and develop new and advanced methods for prosthetic and implant patient care, especially in their Laboratory of Applied Dental Biomaterials and Interfaces. Additionally, the school's College of Engineering strives to further development in all aspects of the subject, from robotics to biotechnology.

Christos Takoudis, Ph.D., the school’s bioengineering and chemical engineering professor, worked on atomic layer deposition (ALD) seven years ago. ALD enables a nanometer-thin layer of metal or metal oxide to be applied to a 2-D or 3-D surface. When Takoudis met Cortini Sukotjo, DDS, Ph.D., they realized ALD's possible developments within the dental field.

They teamed up to develop a method of applying the ALD to a layer of biological material, collagen, to allow for easier implantation with higher rates of success. Collagen, one of the world's oldest and most-used biomaterials, is a protein found in humans and is the substance that holds the body together. Skin, bones and muscles are all composed of collagen, and its depletion can lead to a variety of health complications.

Because collagen is a biomaterial, it is unlikely to provoke an immune response in recipient patients. The crux of the problem, however, was that collagen and most biological materials cannot stand the high temperature needed for ALD. This metallic treatment generally occurs at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Joined by engineering doctoral student, Arghya Bishal, the team was able to develop a room-temperature-level method of titanium dioxide ALD. By creating a device to temper the titanium substance at a lower level and using a process that involved incorporating ozone into the mix, the team was able to bond the collagen membrane and ALD more cohesively.

This process will allow prosthodontists and endodontists to place dental implants and other prosthetics at a higher rate of success than previously achieved. The team ran the cycle more than 1,000 times to prove each titanium-oxide compound could be replicated.

The next step is to begin preclinical experiments and modify the materials with the hope of perfecting the ALD metal oxide for use in clinical trials and eventually, in routine clinical uses.