A specific type of molecule may stimulate the regeneration of stem cells and reverse the inflammation caused by periodontal disease, according to researchers at the Forsyth Institute, which could lead to new therapeutics to treat a variety of systemic diseases characterized by inflammation in the body.
Periodontal disease affects nearly 50% of Americans age 30 and over, Forsyth said. If left unchecked, it could destroy the jawbone and lead to tooth loss. It also is associated with higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Current treatment involves opening the infected gum flaps and adding bone grafts to strengthen teeth.
In their study, the researchers removed stem cells from previously extracted wisdom teeth and placed the stem cells onto petri dishes. The researchers then created a simulated inflammatory periodontal disease environment in the petri dishes. Next, they added two specific types of synthetic molecules, Maresin-1 and Resolvin E1, which are specialized pro-resolving lipid mediators from omega-3 fatty acids. Maresin-1 and Resolvin E1 stimulated the stem cells to regenerate even under the inflammatory conditions.
“Both Maresin-1 and Resolvin-1 reprogrammed the cellular phenotype of the human stem cells, showing that even in response to inflammation, it is possible to boost capacity of the stem cells so they can become regenerative,” said Alpdogan Kantarci, DDS, MSc, PhD, leader of the study and associate member of the staff at the Forsyth Institute.
The finding is important because it allows scientists to identify the specific protein pathways involved in inflammation, the researchers said. Those same protein pathways are consistent across many systemic diseases, including periodontal disease, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and obesity, according to the researchers.
“Now that we understand how these molecules stimulate the differentiation of stem cells in different tissues and reverse inflammation at a critical point in time, the mechanism we identified could one day be used for building complex organs,” Kantarci said. “There is exciting potential for reprogramming stem cells to focus on building tissues.”