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Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center

Dr. Anthony Volpe
The Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center is active in the cutting-edge fields of biomaterial and tissue engineering technologies that are unique to our institute. That emphasis is by design, as both our support and our facilities allow us to pursue high-risk technologies that few others can. We also emphasize a strong applied research program by working closely with industry to translate new technologies into clinical and over-the-counter products. Our projects target technologies that meet the needs of patients, but also fit within the oral care delivery system and the industries that serve it.

Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center brochure (PDF)

Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center: In the News

Current Research

Learn more about our current research in the following areas:


Airbrushed, Polymeric Nano-fiber Scaffolds for Tissue Regeneration
Nano-fiber scaffolds are typically synthesized using an electro-spinning method which is slow and requires high voltage equipment. Dr. Wojtek Tutak is currently developing an alternative method using airbrushing, a technique that forms fibers when compressed gas is mixed with a polymer solution and then forced through a small nozzle. This technology can be applied to a wide spectrum of polymers and used for rapid in-situ and ex-situ nano-fiber scaffold fabrication. This inexpensive, safe, high-throughput approach has potential for applications in regeneration of periodontal bone defects, design of implants with promoted scaffold vascularization and sustained bone formation.

For further information, please contact Dr. Wojtek Tutak at wojtek.tutak@nist.gov.

Bioactive ACP Composites
Polymeric materials containing amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP) arrest tooth demineralization and even regenerate defective tooth structures via 1) mineral ion release and 2) the subsequent deposition of these ions as apatite, a natural inorganic constituent of enamel and dentin. Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center researchers have systematically investigated structure-composition-property relationships in ACP/methacrylate composites for almost two decades. The ultimate goal of these studies is to design bioactive remineralizing materials that adhere well to both enamel and dentin. Besides practical applications (formulation of the remineralizing ACP sealant, orthodontic adhesive and endodontic composite), our studies also contribute to a better understanding of the physico-chemical and mechanical properties of these polymeric ACP composites, ACP composite/tooth interfacial phenomena and cellular responses to these materials. Generally excellent biocompatibility, possible osteoinductivity, and affinity for proteins and cells make ACP potentially attractive for tissue engineering applications. Exploratory studies of ACP-loaded bioresorbable polymers intended for general bone regeneration are currently in progress. In addition, a feasibility of incorporating new quaternary ammonium methacrylates with adhesive and coupling functions into the polymer phase of ACP composites to design restoratives with both antimicrobial and remineralizing ability is being explored.

For further information, please contact Dr. Drago Skrtic at drago.skrtic@nist.gov.

Bioactive Nano Materials
Nano forms of hydroxyapatite and other bioactive materials are prepared by a novel method developed under a new NIH grant, employing a spray drying technique in such a way that 1) target particle sizes over a wide range can be obtained, 2) compounds with either low or high solubility can be prepared, and 3) the prepared particles would not be exposed to any solution environment after their formation and therefore would retain their original, highly reactive surfaces. Due to their small sizes and high reactivity, the prepared nano-materials are expected to have a range of clinical applications. Ongoing studies evaluate the effectiveness of nano-sized calcium fluoride as the source of fluoride for remineralizing enamel carious lesions, and the effectiveness of nano-sized calcium phosphates and calcium fluoride in reducing dentin permeability.

For further information, please contact Dr. Larry Chow at larry.chow@nist.gov

Calcuim Phosphate Bone Cements
Calcium phosphate bone cement based on ADAF patents was introduced to the market in November 1997 under the trade name BoneSource®. The product has thus far received FDA approval for craniofacial and maxillofacial applications. This plaster-like material can be placed surgically, molded and sculpted to the correct anatomical shape, and will set to form a hard implant composed entirely of hydroxyapatite. The implant material is slowly dissolved and replaced entirely by new bone, thus repairing the original defect. Additional studies have led to significant improvements in the handling properties of the cement and development of cement formulations that would be suited for different clinical applications.

For further information, please contact Dr. Larry Chow at larry.chow@nist.gov

Novel Dental Resin Composites with Improved Service Life
The goal of the project “Novel Dental Composite Restorative Systems with Improved Service Life”, supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research through 2018, is to develop a new dental resin-based composite restorative system superior in properties and endurance to currently used Bis-GMA/TEGDMA resin systems. The new dental composite will contain: a) novel monomers that, when polymerized, will not be susceptible to enzymatic and/or hydrolytic degradation, b) self-healing components, and c) smart antibacterial components that will be activated only when needed. New monomers will be formulated to include hydrolytically stable ether groups and other functionalities non-susceptible to attacks by esterases. The increased longevity of the new self-healing composites will be attained by added ability to intrinsically repair micro cracks and thus prevent a catastrophic failure of the restorations. Incorporation of a novel quaternary ammonium coupling agent will provide an antimicrobial defense system. Performance of these new materials will be evaluated using a sequence of clinically-relevant laboratory tests.

For more information contact the Principal Investigator of this project Dr. Jirun Sun at jirun.sun@nist.gov.

Return to all research categories.

Molecular and Cell Biology

Dental Immunochemistry and Cell Biology: Advancing Point-of-Care Technologies
Applied research is being conducted to advance point-of-care technologies for preventing and treating post-operative complications. One study is designed to develop a rapid salivary diagnostic test that can be used to screen patients to mitigate the increased risk of post-extraction alveolar osteitis in females. Another effort is being undertaken to advance point-of-care photodynamic therapies (to inhibit bacterial adhesion and kill microbes) intended to treat infections commonly associated with dental implants.

For further information, please contact Dr. Diane Beinek at diane.beinek@nist.gov.

Molecular and Microbiological Aspects of Dental Tissue Repairs
This project involves the development of 2D and 3D human dental tissues, and using primary cell culture models as screening platforms for the identification of molecular and cellular biomarkers in periodontal disease. Additional testing will include exposures to dental synthetic polymers, multi-channeled biocompatible drug delivery systems and tissue regeneration strategies based on autologous dental- tissue-derived stem cell transplantations.

For further information, please contact Dr. Gili Kaufman at gili.kaufman@nist.gov.

Molecular Aspects of Self-renewal and Differentiation of Stem Cells and Clinical Applications
This project envelopes stem cell research, bioinformatics, and clinical knowledge of dentistry with the aim to advance our understanding of the molecular processes that could be used to regenerate human cells, tissues, or organs, to restore normal function within the oral/head and neck region. Current studies, focused on novel epigenetic regulator in stem cell maintenance and differentiation are expected to greatly improve the options for the prediction and the invention of therapeutic tools.

For further information, please contact Dr. Jeffrey Kim at jeffrey.kim@nist.gov

Clinical Science/Therapies

Calcium Phosphate Remineralization Therapies
The formation and conversion of calcium phosphates are being studied for prevention and repair of dental caries and tooth sensitivity. The ADAF’s ACP patents have been licensed and marketed as toothpaste (ENAMEL CARE and MENTADENT by Church & Dwight Co.), chewing gums, confections, prophylaxis paste and fluoride varnish (ENAMEL PRO series by Premier Dental), tooth whitening (Nitewhite ACP, Discus Dental), and topical desensitizers (Quell Desensitizer by Pentron Clinical Technologies and Relief ACP by Discus Dental). Other products are currently under development. The field of remineralizing temporary cement is still available for licensing. Ongoing research is concentrating on second generation ACPs and multi-pronged approaches to prevent and/or combat caries.

For further information, please contact Dr. Ming Tung at ming.tung@nist.gov.

Cavity Preventing Chewing Gum
Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center scientists are working to develop other calcium phosphate-based technologies that can remineralize hard tooth tissues or, at a minimum, retard caries-producing demineralization. Studies have shown that an experimental chewing gum containing α-Ca3(PO4)2 can eliminate the ability of sucrose challenged plaque to demineralize tooth enamel, thus preventing a cavity from forming or progressing. Additional studies showed that separate calcium and phosphate compounds, incorporated into gums and candies, are even more effective in producing remineralizing conditions in the mouth.

For further information, please contact Dr. Larry Chow at larry.chow@nist.gov.

Fluoride Requirements for Therapeutic Efficacy
The Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center utilizes an automated chemical reactor which simulates oral conditions/challenges in the human mouth. This artificial 'mouth' allows for the control of simulated acid attacks, studying fluoride addition to baseline saliva, and regulation of 'as-dosed' treatments, creating conditions similar to those during tooth brushing. We use this reactor to answer some of the lingering questions about fluoride anti-caries efficacy in the mouth.

For further information, please email vrc@ada.org.

Micro-analytical Techniques
Micro-analytical techniques and instrumentation have been developed at the ADA Foundation's research center to study the mechanisms of dental decay by examining the composition of microscopic samples of plaque, plaque fluid, and oral tissue recovered from the oral environment. These techniques have been extensively used to develop and evaluate new anti-cavity and cavity repairing technologies. As a result of these studies, fluoride rinses and dentifrices have been 'engineered' that produce a much greater cavity fighting effect while using a very low amount of applied fluoride.

For further information, please contact Dr. Jerry Vogel at jerry.vogel@nist.gov.

Standard-related Activities

One of the many ways the Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center contributes to the safety and efficacy of dental products is through active involvement in both the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). A VRC representative regularly attends the ADA Standard Committee for dental products SCDP/ANSI meeting held in conjunction with the annual American Association for Dental Research (AADR) and/or International Association for Dental Research (IADR) meetings. 

ADA Foundation researchers typically get involved in multiple laboratory experiments, document generation and revision. Additionally, the researchers synthesize and characterize NIST-certified Hydroxyapatite Standard Reference Material and dental abrasives. As part of the standard-related activities, oral rinses (mouth washes) are being evaluated for their erosion effect. A screening method has been developed to easily predict the erosive capacity of any liquid. Unlike the conventional dental erosion measurement techniques, this approach yields faster results and is available to almost any laboratory. The method is currently undergoing national and international multi-lab testing for incorporation into the future ANSI and ISO standards on oral rinses.

For further information, please email vrc@ada.org.

Scientific Collaboration/Education

Through collaborations with government and industry, and by fostering mentorship within the dental education community, the Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center provides the science and technology basis needed to improve the field of dentistry and oral health of the public. Current research/educational collaborations include the Naval Post-Graduate Dental School, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland; National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIH/NIDCR), Bethesda, Maryland ; College of Dentistry, Howard University, Washington DC; School of Dental Medicine, University of Colorado; School of Dental Medicine, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire; Dental School, Department of Bioengineering and Department of Engineering, University of Maryland; and Department of Engineering, Old Dominion University, Virginia. Forthcoming collaborations include College of Dental Medicine, Nova Southeastern University, Florida, and College of Dentistry, University of Tennessee.
For further information, please email vrc@ada.org.

The Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center traditionally hosts Dental Student’s Conference on Research at the end of April each year. On average, fifty students from the US and Canada attend the meeting. The students spend one day on the NIST campus visiting the research center, and a second day visiting the NIH/NIDCR. Plenary lectures are given by the invited speakers addressing dental school, AADR, dental industry, ADA and NIST perspectives of dental research/science. Students have multiple opportunities to interact with mentors regarding careers in dental and biomaterial research. They also present their own research to their peers and on-site researchers. Selected ongoing Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center and/or NIST projects are presented to and discussed with the attending students.

For further information, please contact Ms. Gretchen Duppins at: gretchen.duppins@nist.gov.

Contact Us

Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8546
Gaithersburg, MD 20899

Phone: 301.975.6806
Fax: 301.963.9143
Email: vrc@ada.org