Regenerating Dental Tissue with Stem Cells from Baby Teeth?
It’s common for kids to trip or fall and lose a tooth in the process. About half of all children suffer some sort of tooth injury as they grow up. When the injury reaches a non-mature permanent tooth, it can lead to stunted root development and what’s called a “dead” tooth.
Current dental treatment for dead teeth involves a procedure called apexification, which encourages new root development. However, this does not address lost tissue resulting from the injury and can even cause abnormalities.
Recent studies involving stem cells offer a more promising result. Under a joint effort by the University of Pennsylvania’s Songtao Shi and 4th Military Medicine University’s Bei Li, Kun Xuan and Yan Jin, it was found that children could recover from tooth injuries using stem cells taken from their baby teeth. The clinical trial is documented in the Science Translational Medicine journal.
Pennsylvania University professor Shi, who is also chair of the Cell Biology and Anatomy Department in Dental Medicine, says that the treatment can bring sensations back in the patient’s teeth. For instance, introduce a hot or cold stimulation and they will feel it as if their teeth were alive. Moreover, the Penn University professor claims that they have compelling data that proves it’s a safe and effective process.
Professor Shi started working with dental stem cells after he discovered the possibilities from his daughter’s baby teeth. Years of research have led the team to find out more about the specialized stem cells, labeled hDPSC or human deciduous pulp stem cells, and how they could be used to regrow damaged dental tissue (pulp).
A Phase 1 trial has begun in China, where 40 participants who had injured their permanent incisors still had baby teeth. The group was divided as such: 10 for the control treatment which was apexification, and the remaining 30 were assigned to receive hDPSC treatment.
The children who were assigned to hDPSC treatment had stem cells taken from a normal baby tooth. The stem cells in the pulp area were harvested, then reproduced in a lab. Afterwards, the cells were added to the injured incisors.
Follow-up observation revealed that children who were treated with stem cells showed promising results in the form of thicker dentin and healthy root development, along with better blood flow, compared to the control group.
Before the study, the children had little sensation in their impacted tooth area, but after a year of the stem cell procedure, only the ones who were under the hDPSCs regained sensation. The team also found nothing that could compromise the subject’s immune system.
The researchers then examined the treated tissue to see how effective the procedure was. It was found that the stem cells from the baby teeth were able to regenerate some of the dental pulp cells within the impacted area, including blood vessels, connective tissues and dentin.
The team is very excited about the results, and Professor Shi has mentioned that the stem cell procedure they discovered may potentially become routine therapy in the future.
Regrowing dental tissue using baby teeth stem cells is just the beginning. There are issues that need to be addressed, including treating adults who don’t have any of their baby teeth left, and Professor Shi and his colleagues are now looking towards allogenic stem cells as a way to address this concern. Allogenic cells are stem cells that come from another person and could be used to regrow an adult’s dental tissue. The team is also going through the steps to have the stem cell procedure and clinical trials approved by the FDA.
If the tests are completely successful, stem cell therapy such as hDPSCs can be used to treat systemic diseases, including lupus. But for now, Shi is focusing on the dental aspects of the treatment.
Professor Shi says that the team is excited over the many kinds of applications their research can do within the field of dentistry. Once the stem cell regenerative treatment is approved, channels for treating systemic diseases become the next logical step.
The Healing Miracle Team
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