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In vivo tooth regeneration on the horizon
1st Jun 2010

(click to enlarge)
Human molar scaffolding from the laboratory of Dr Jeremy Mao
Human molar scaffolding from the laboratory of Dr Jeremy Mao

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A new technique can orchestrate stem cells to migrate to a three-dimensional scaffold infused with growth factor, holding the translational potential to yield an anatomically correct tooth in as soon as nine weeks once implanted.

This has been pioneered in the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory of Dr Jeremy Mao, a professor of dental medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

An animal-model study has shown that by homing stem cells to a scaffold made of natural materials and integrating them into surrounding tissue, there is no need to use harvested stem cell lines or create an environment outside of the body where the tooth is grown and then implanted once it has matured. Instead, the tooth can be grown in the socket where it will integrate with surrounding tissue in ways that are impossible with hard metals or other materials.

‘These findings represent the first report of regeneration of anatomically shaped tooth-like structures in vivo, and by cell homing without cell delivery,' write Dr Mao and his colleagues in the research paper. ‘The potency of cell homing is substantiated not only by cell recruitment into scaffold micro-channels, but also by the regeneration of periodontal ligaments and newly formed alveolar bone.'

Dr Mao went on to state: ‘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. Cell-homing-based tooth regeneration may provide a tangible pathway toward clinical translation.'

The study is published in the Journal of Dental Research on 6 May 2010 under the title Anatomically shaped tooth and periodontal regeneration by cell homing.

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