For the first time scientists have regenerated a biological tooth within the oral cavity using stem cell development, suggesting a possible cheaper alternative to dentures or implants for adults who have lost some or all of their teeth.
Scientists demonstrated in an animal model the ability to 'grow' both rodent and human teeth accompanied by ligament and bone regeneration at the site. The US research team directed the body's own stem cells to a growth factor covered three-dimensional scaffold of natural material integrated in surrounding tissue (termed 'cell-homing'). Significant growth and maturation occurred within nine weeks.
The 'cell-homing' method could overcome the need to isolate harvested stem cell lines, or create an environment external to the body (e.g. a Petri dish) where the tooth is grown and then implanted only after it has matured. This could accelerate regulatory, commercial, and clinical processes according to Dr Mao, the lead researcher on the study.
'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' said Dr Mao. 'Cell-homing-based tooth regeneration may provide a tangible pathway toward clinical translation'.
Implants are hampered by long recovery times, of up to 18 months, and are unable to 'remodel' with surrounding jaw bone that undergoes changes throughout a person's life, according to a press release issued by Columbia University Medical Centre where the technique was pioneered.
Dr Ira B Lamster, dean of the College of Dental Medicine said: 'This research provides an example of what is achievable when today's biology is applied to common clinical problems. Dr Mao's research is a look into the future of dental medicine'.
Columbia University has already filed patent applications for the technology and is seeking partners to aid in its commercialisation.
This research was published in the Journal of Dental Research.