Stem Cells to Regrown Teeth?
Imagine with me a world in which you wouldn’t have to fear coming to the dentist. A world in which someone with a toothache could get it taken out and actually have a fully functional tooth–complete with nerves and blood supply–replace it. No more messing around with white and silver fillings, ceramic crowns, and, best of all, no more root canals!
It may not be so far fetched. According to an article in Singularity Hub, researchers at the NOVA college of dentistry are attacking this very problem with surprising success. Dr. Peter Murray and colleagues have been utilizing stem cells harvested from healthy, extracted wisdom teeth and bone marrow to regenerate tooth structures in mice and primates with great success, suggesting that human trials may be just as promising.
Teeth are more comples than simply creating the shape of a tooth though. The true test will be to see if Dr. Murray, and reasearchers around the country, can produce the enamel and dentin layers of a tooth complete with a self-sustaining blood supply and nerve. Currently the process for tooth regrowth includes a scaffold to help the tooth know what shape to form and signals (growth factors) for the stem cells that tell them what to turn into.
A German group back in 2005 had successfully recreated a man’s mandible complete with vascularization (blood supply) by using a similar approach of taking stem cells, a 3D titanium scaffold–based on the man’s anatomy–and growth factors. The researchers cleverly implanted this in the man’s latissimus dorsus muscle (back) and waited for the body to create the required vessels. Months later they took the scaffolding out and implanted it successfully. A self-sustaining, stem cell induced growth! As mentioned before, a tooth is more complex than just forming one type of tissue, bone in this case, but this demonstrates the type of scientific leaps that are happening in today’s labs!
In the future you might find that the next time you enter your dentist’s office, you will be hearing the sweet sound of tooth regeneration–I like to think it sounds something like this–rather than the high whsitling of the drill.
Here’s to hoping!
Writing, as always, from beautiful Pearl River, NY in Rockland County, NY