Showing great promise as a regenerative medicine, stem cells are a special type of cell that can divide and split into nearly any type of cell. They can be effective at healing an injury by promoting healing on the cellular level — encouraging the body to naturally rebuild itself. At our Cincinnati office, we’ve seen great results from stem cell treatments with patients suffering back and neck pain, knee and joint injuries, and urinary stress incontinence.
A new technique suggests that stem cells could even be used to grow new teeth in just 2 months.
A Stem Cell Scaffold for Teeth
The experimental treatment is being pioneered in the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory of Dr. Jeremy Mao, Edward V. Zegarelli Professor of Dental Medicine, and a professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University. Researchers believe they’ve discovered a way to migrate the body’s stem cells to a three-dimensional scaffold placed in the patient’s mouth. The stem cells can colonize the scaffold, grow a tooth in the socket, and merge with surrounding tissue.
The research results were published in the Journal of Dental Research (JADA):
“In each of 22 rats, they implanted an incisor scaffold orthotopically in mandibular incisor extraction pockets and a human molar scaffold ectopically in the dorsum.
“They then infused the scaffolds’ microchannels with two growth factors. They also implanted growth-factor–free control scaffolds.
“After nine weeks, they found that periodontal ligament-like fibrous tissue and new bone regenerated where the rat incisor scaffolds interfaced with native alveolar bone. The human molar scaffolds showed integration and tissue ingrowth. Researchers also found that the growth factors recruited significantly more endogenous cells and led to greater angiogenesis than did the growth-factor-free control scaffolds.”
An Innovative Approach to Stem Cell Regeneration
The treatment essentially works like building a structure with stem cells for bricks.
“These findings represent the first report of regeneration of anatomically shaped tooth-like structures in vivo, and by cell homing without cell delivery,” Dr. Mao told JADA. “The potency of cell homing is substantiated not only by cell recruitment into scaffold microchannels, but also by regeneration of a putative periodontal ligaments newly formed alveolar bone.”
The potential treatment could be a more effective and less invasive alternative to dental implants, which can take months to heal. Implants that fail to align with the jaw bone will also likely fall out.
“A key consideration in tooth regeneration is finding a cost-effective approach that can translate into therapies for patients who cannot afford or who aren’t good candidates for dental implants,” Dr. Mao said. “Cell-homing-based tooth regeneration may provide a tangible pathway toward clinical translation.”