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Catching Up With Canada Research Chair Tier 1 Professor Anil Kishen

By Elisabeth Lisican

The future of endodontics might be nano — but the benefits could be larger than life.

As announced in the August Communiqué, AAE member; Journal of Endodontics Associate Editor; and University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry Associate Dean, Graduate Education, and Professor Anil Kishen has received Canada Research Chair Tier 1 designation and funding for his work in oral health nanomedicine.

Combining his background in clinical sciences (dentistry and endodontics) and biomedical engineering, Professor Kishen has led the Kishen Lab for the past two decades. The Kishen Lab has been working with nanoparticles since 2005 and is credited with developing many innovations over the years. For example, they developed a special varnish for orthodontic patients that was a natural alternative to fluoride. They’ve also developed a novel new product for tooth sensitivity that offers temporary relief immediately.

“The beauty of this is it is all done by using bioactive natural material,” Dr. Kishen said. “We can tune the physical and chemical properties of this material at the nano level, and we can achieve different kinds of benefits.”

For each Tier 1 Chair, the institution receives $200,000 annually for seven years. But the title of Research Chair Tier 1 entails more than the securing of funding — it is a position granted, identifying an individual as someone who is doing research of excellence.

The Canada Research Chairs Program invests up to $311 million per year to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds. Chairholders aim to achieve research excellence in engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

“It’s a real honor for me,” Dr. Kishen said.

Over the next seven years, Dr. Kishen’s lab will be using multifunctional bioactive nanoparticles to examine wound healing and cellular crosstalk mechanisms.

Nanoparticles are materials with overall dimensions in the nanoscale — under 100 nm — that play a key role in nanomedicine. The Kishen Lab works with chitosan-based nanoparticles. Scientists process chitosan powder into nanoparticles that are then optimized through modification of their physical properties, molecular structure, and more. Nanoparticles are optimized differently for each therapeutic application.

So far, the Kishen Lab has demonstrated how engineered chitosan-based nanoparticles support healing in patients with different oral health issues, including apical periodontitis and inflammatory root resorption. His paper Maxillary Anterior Teeth With Extensive Root Resorption Treated With Low-level Light-activated Engineered Chitosan Nanoparticles earned him a JOE Award in 2022.

In a study on apical periodontitis, Dr. Kishen used engineered nanoparticles to influence the patients’ own natural healing response to allow the patients’ previously inflamed tissue to heal rapidly. He demonstrated how engineered chitosan nanoparticles mediated cellular crosstalk in their healing process. In 2021, these investigations were published in the Journal of Endodontics as well as the Bioactive Materials Journal.

Dr. Kishen also sees potential for many other therapeutic applications. His lab will be exploring utilizing nanoparticles as part of a therapeutic strategy for saving infected natural teeth. Outside of dentistry, the Kishen Lab is on the verge of applying their findings for possible treatment of diabetic wounds and ulcers as well as for medication-related osteonecrosis by topically modulating host immune response.

Thanks to the Canada Research Chair funding, they will examine how cells crosstalk in the presence of bacteria, and how to stimulate that crosstalk to influence healing. To achieve this, Dr. Kishen’s team will be developing three-dimensional tissue and wound models to study the crosstalk mechanism. They will also explore optimizing and functionalizing nanoparticles to make them intelligent.

The Greater Good

Although working with nanoparticles may urge one to “think small”, Dr. Kishen’s eyes have always been on the larger implications of what he does.

“When I was a teenager, my dad asked me, ‘what do you want for your birthday?’ I said, ‘I think I want a doctor’s kit’ — the plastic stethoscopes and the small needles … the thermometer … My dad said, ‘why do you want to become a doctor?’ I said, ‘I want to become a doctor because I can treat all the patients; I can heal them all. And I can be a good person.’

“But then my dad said, ‘why don’t you become a scientist? If you become a scientist and you invent something that all the doctors in the world can use … then you are benefitting all the patients.’

“So I thought, that’s an interesting idea.”

That stayed with Dr. Kishen all throughout his professional career and is what helps to keep him motivated each day.

“If you have the ability to solve clinical problems which can benefit our patients and you are making some kind of improvement in that, what else would you want to do? You are developing something that can benefit patients – that is the best part.”

2023 has proven to be a banner year for Dr. Kishen, who was also appointed as Associate Dean, Graduate Education, at the University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry, effective on July 1, 2023.

In his spare time, Dr. Kishen enjoys going on long hikes with his family in the Toronto area.

In his younger days, Dr. Kishen played sports; these days, he loves to watch sports, including the NBA as well as MLB.

“Naturally, I support Canadian and Toronto teams. For basketball, we have the Toronto Raptors. I watch games, and I follow India cricket too … Sports are something I do.”

All Things Tunable

Dr. Kishen has recently picked up a new hobby — learning the guitar — but says he prefers to keep that on the downlow.

While you may not get to see him perform music live, you’ll undoubtedly see him continue to make headlines for tuning nanoparticles.

“I can tune these kinds of particles to promote wound healing,” he said. “I can tune this particle to make it antibacterial… or, to be like a varnish. These are tunable biomaterials. The beauty is it is very cost-effective. You get a lot of benefit at a low cost.”

Further Reading:

Spring 2023 Recipients (cycle 2022-1) (

Periodontal Fibroblasts-Macrophage Crosstalk in External Inflammatory Root Resorption.
Rajeshwari HRS, Kishen A.J Endod. 2023 Jun 1:S0099-2399(23)00287-X. doi: 10.1016/j.joen.2023.05.016.

Deciphering Stem Cell From Apical Papilla-Macrophage Choreography Using a Novel 3-dimensional Organoid System.
Li FC, Hussein H, Magalhaes M, Selvaganapathy PR, Kishen A.J Endod. 2022 Aug;48(8):1063-1072.e7.

Proteomic profiling reveals engineered chitosan nanoparticles mediated cellular crosstalk and immunomodulation for therapeutic application in apical periodontitis.
Hussein H, Kishen A.Bioact Mater. 2021 Oct 9;11:77-89

Assessing Macrophage Polarization in Nanoparticle-Guided Wound Repair Using a Lipopolysaccharide Contaminated Intraosseous Model.

Singh K, Ali A, Shrestha A, Magalhaes M, Kishen A.J Endod. 2022 Jan;48(1):109-116.

Engineered Chitosan-based Nanoparticles Modulate Macrophage-Periodontal Ligament Fibroblast Interactions in Biofilm-mediated Inflammation.
Hussein H, Kishen A.J Endod. 2021 Sep;47(9):1435-1444.