Stem Cells Could Provide New Method of Tooth Repair

The treatment centers around a gene that has been found to enhance stem cell activation and tissue regeneration in tooth healing.
Donovan Alexander

One of the first things people notice about you is your smile. You probably have had it drilled into your head to take care of your teeth. Even more so, on that occasion that your teeth are damaged or need to be “fixed”, in most places, that can get very costly, difficult, and even painful. However, new research from the University of Plymouth believes the key to the future of tooth repair may come from stem cells. 

The stem cell tooth repair treatment 

Now, the world of stem cell research holds a lot of promise. Equally exciting and controversial, stem cells are poised to change medicine forever, changing the way we eliminate disease or even potentially extending human life. Stem cells also play a key role in the process of wound healing. This also includes your damaged tooth. 

“Stem cells are so important, as, in the future, they could be used by laboratories to regenerate tissues that have been damaged or lost due to disease -- so it's vital to understand how they work," said Dr. Bing Hu from the University of Plymouth's Peninsula Dental School.

Led by Hu, and with the aid of researchers from around the world, the research team found that a gene called Dlk1 enhances stem cell activation and tissue regeneration in tooth healing. However, let’s take a step back and look at how they got there. 

The study and the science 

While looking at mice researchers discovered a new population of mesenchymal stem cells. For the uninitiated, mesenchymal stem cells are the stem cells that make up the skeletal tissues of muscles and bones. Even more so, these same cells play a vital role in the formation of the hard tissue that covers the main body of a tooth known as dentin. 

While studying mesenchymal stem cells researchers found that a molecular gene called Dlk1 controls the number of cells produced when the stem cells are activated. As the first paper to highlight the role of Dlk1, researchers proved that Dlk1 can enhance stem cell activation and tissue regeneration in a tooth wound healing model.

"By uncovering both the new stem cells that make the main body of a tooth and establishing their vital use of Dlk1 in regenerating the tissue, we have taken major steps in understanding stem cell regeneration”, said Dr. Hu

This would help people dealing with tooth problems like decay and tooth crumbling. More research will be conducted to better understand and refine potential tooth treatments.

The study is published in Nature Communications.

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