In a promising article published in the Journal of Dental Research, a professor and a group of researchers explained their new method of tooth regeneration and express high hopes for this method in replacing current artificial dental implants.
Stem cell research has been on the rise for quite some time, as these cells are highly transformable and can repair tissue by continually dividing into either a new stem cell for further growth or a specialized cell. The specialized cell would eventually have a job, and includes red blood cells, skin cells, or muscle cells.
In the case of these new stem cell transplants, stem cells from mice were mixed with human gum cells and transplanted into adult mouse kidneys. The cells grew into “recognisable tooth structures coated in enamel with viable developing roots.” The cells taken from human gum tissue were epithelial “surface lining” cells those taken from mouse embryos were mesenchymal stem cells. The mesenchymal cells are very diverse, as they can develop into a wide range of structures such as bone, cartilage, and fat.
Professor Paul Sharpe, who led the research team at King’s College London, explained:
“Epithelial cells derived from adult human gum tissue are capable of responding to tooth-inducing signals from embryonic tooth mesenchyme in an appropriate way to contribute to tooth crown and root formation.”
The research still has some ways to go because the group has the added challenge of finding a way for adult human mesenchymal cells to react in the same ways as embryonic. Leaving embryonic stem cells out of this groundbreaking finding is what could make the dental treatment more viable for the market, since stem cells from embryo raise questions of morality. Sharpe adds:
“We’ve shown in the lab that you can use epithelial adult cells with tooth-inducing mesenchymal cells from embryos and we’ve shown that embryonic epithelial cells with mesenchymal adult cells can grow new teeth. Now we need to combine adult epithelial and adult mesenchymal cells. It’s one of the last pieces of the puzzle.”
If the research team develops a way to make the two adult human cells to work as well as adult and embryonic cells, this could make the treatment more cost effective and better for patients seeking implants. The procedure and healing time are much more efficient than artificial implants, not to mention these stem cell implants will last forever.