Two reports in the July issue of the Journal of Dental Research highlight exciting advances in moving toward the tissue engineering of teeth. At The Forsyth Institute (Boston, MA), Pamela Yelick and colleagues have seeded cultured tooth germ cells on biodegradable scaffolds which were then implanted to bioengineer tooth tissues, while in London (UK), Paul Sharpe's group has been able to generate tooth structures from non-dental mesenchymal cells placed in contact with embryonic oral epithelium and transplanted to an ectopic site.
The latter report is pivotal in that it demonstrates that uncommitted mesenchymal stem cells, in association with oral epithelium, can be instructed to mimic developmental events leading to growth of a tooth structure comprised of enamel, dentin, and pulp, with a morphology resembling that of a natural tooth. These observations offer very exciting opportunities for replacement of natural teeth damaged through disease or trauma and for those missing in hypodontia. There are obvious practical obstacles still to be overcome before this might be available as a routine clinical treatment, but it provides an elegant example of the translation of basic science research to the clinical arena.
There are also significant opportunities in the shorter term to exploit this knowledge for the development of novel regenerative therapies which seek to restore partial tooth tissue loss. Such approaches provide potential for restoration of the structural integrity of the dental tissues where the new tissues become an integral part of the tooth, thus minimizing some of the problems of restoration failure with traditional dental materials through interface failur
Contact: Anthony J. Smith, Editor
International & American Association for Dental Research