The head of the National Institutes of Health oral biology/dentistry division, was the same Dr. who taught us our Genetics course last semester, and said we are getting fairly close to regenerating teeth.
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor
Scientists have successfully used tissue engineering techniques to grow almost fully formed teeth.
It points the way for biologic repair in dental disease
They believe the breakthrough could eventually lead to a biological tooth substitute to replace human teeth.
The researchers made a suspension of individual cells from a young tooth reorganise into a tooth crown containing both enamel and dentin.
Dr Pamela Yelick told BBC News Online that it might be possible one day to grow human teeth of a particular size and shape.
She predicted that within five years, we would know whether dental stem cells could be manipulated to bioengineer teeth. To generate a human tooth might take an additional five to 10 years.
Pigs to rats
Writing in the Journal of Dental Research, the researchers describe how they used enzymes to isolate immature tooth cells from six-month-old pigs.
They then seeded cells obtained from the immature teeth of the animals on to sponge-like biodegradable polymer scaffolds and placed them inside rats to develop.
Within 30 weeks, they report, small, recognisable tooth crowns had formed, containing all the materials found in normal teeth.
That is, dentin (a bone-like layer); odontoblasts (cells that secrete dentin); a well-defined pulp chamber; cementoblasts (cells that cover the roots of the tooth); and enamel.
The researchers say their work is the first successful production of mature tooth crowns containing both dentin and enamel.
Other experts have used alternative approaches to form partial tooth structures, including dentin and pulp, but none have so far grown complete structures that include enamel.
Dr Joseph Vacanti, director of the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), US, and a co-researcher on the project said: "It points the way for biologic repair in dental disease, using the new tools of tissue engineering."
Of great importance, say the scientists, is the discovery that dental stem cells appear to exist in pig molar tissues.
"It suggests the existence of stem cells that could be important in many areas of dental repair," said Dr Vacanti.
"By combining the new science of stem cell biology with the engineering concepts and techniques of tissue engineering, it demonstrates that complex structures such as living teeth can be created.
Dr Dominick DePaola, of the Forsyth Institute, where the work was carried out, added: "The ability to identify, isolate and propagate dental stem cells to use in biological replacement tooth therapy has the potential to revolutionise dentistry."
And Dr Bruce Donoff, of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine Center for Craniofacial Tissue Engineering, said: "The potential of this advance is enormous and could have a far-reaching impact on patient care."
Currently used synthetic tooth implants often provide effective replacements, though they do not wear as well as natural teeth.
Moreover, as a person's bite changes with age, such implants do not move naturally in the jaw.
Ideally, biological teeth would have all the same properties of an individual's natural teeth.
I worked in a lab that did this stuff at the Forsyth Institute. It's very cool but the ability to grow a tooth into a human is discouragingly far off. But their posters and images were some of the most interesting things I've seen.
OK, grow a tooth. But, just like a germinated seed requires certain surrounding conditions in order to mature into a healthy plant, I would presume that bone and soft tissue would have to be in proper condition in order for the regeneration of teeth to take place in an optimal manner.
I wonder what dental schools and research institutions are pursuing research in tissue-engineered teeth. Is it only Forsyth?
Some of my questions for marshall are:
Do dental students do research at Forsyth? If so, only students from Harvard? Or would it be possible for students from BU or Tufts work at Forsyth?
(I am a Ph. D candiate in biomedical engineering at BU, and am applying to dental school for 2005 cycle. I hope to continue research in dental tissue engineering, and I wonder which schools I can apply to.)
I will really appreciate your replies!!!
PS: It is my first post here. I just found out about this site yesterday. Getting a lot of infos here~~