Researchers from the United Kingdom and United States have identified a common origin shared by teeth and taste buds in a fish with regenerative abilities. Regulated by the BMP signaling pathway, the results suggest that the oral organs have surprising regenerative capabilities and can be manipulated to express characteristics of different tissue types.
As nearly a third of all adults over the age of 65 have lost all of their teeth, the collaboration between King’s College London and the Georgia Institute of Technology set out to understand tooth renewal in animals that have replacement and regeneration capabilities.
Using cichlid fishes and mouse models and building on previous studies in regeneration, the researchers found that replacement teeth share a continuous epithelium with developing taste buds and that both organs share very similar stem cell populations. The BMP signaling pathway acts on this shared epithelium to distinguish teeth from taste buds.
Mouse genetic models where BMP signaling activity is modified showed that teeth gene expression is ectopically activated in taste buds when BMP signaling is elevated. These findings indicate underappreciated epithelial cell populations with promising potential in bioengineering and dental therapeutics, the researchers said.
“This research is an excellent example of the power of studying multiple species in order to gain novel insights that can impact upon human regenerative medicine,” said Paul Sharpe, PhD, head of the Centre for Craniofacial & Regenerative Biology at King’s College London.