R&D tie-up to add bite to dentistry in Singapore

PHOTO: R&D tie-up to add bite to dentistry in Singapore

SINGAPORE - Two national institutes have teamed up in a move that could lead to better dental care for people.

The tie-up between National Dental Centre Singapore (NDC), a unit of public healthcare group SingHealth, and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will produce more dental surgeons who can do research that can lead to innovative techniques and devices for improved patient care.

Such a pool of clinician-scientists could also attract pharmaceutical companies to base more clinical trials in Singapore as they can oversee these trials, which, if successful, will again benefit patients.

The partnership, agreed on yesterday, will see NTU training the centre's surgeons on formal research methodologies.

The head of NTU's School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Professor Teoh Swee Hin, said: "We've a lot of clinicians in Singapore who are not scientists and do not know how to run experiments to confirm hypotheses. That's a very significant gap."

He added: "Our impetus... is to enable basic research to be translated into clinical practice and better patient care."

Agreeing, the centre's head of research, Dr Goh Bee Tin, said: "To be a leader in dentistry, our clinicians have to be at the forefront of clinical science and technology."

To start, both partners will contribute a total of $1 million towards six research projects for the next three years.

These include bone bio-engineering and 3D bio-printing that produces human tissue to replace part of patients' jaws and gums during reconstructive surgery.

The researchers can also tap on NTU's facilities and faculty.

Both have a common interest in how to use 3D scaffolds that are bio-compatible with people to repair jaws damaged by trauma or cancer surgery.

These scaffolds are porous and trap bone-forming cells in them.

After the bone grows, the scaffolds will be harmlessly absorbed by the body. This method eliminates the need for bone grafts and could reduce the need for surgeries and lengthy hospital stays.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 16 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.