Researchers Find Metabolic Predictor of Tooth Loss

Dentistry Today


A team led by researchers at the University of Washington (UW) has uncovered what appears to be the first metabolic predictor of tooth loss, finding important clues about stem cell metabolism that shed new light on the ability of teeth to repair themselves.

The study found a link between the metabolic activity of dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs) and the speed at which they age. As cells age, they become less able to regenerate themselves. The loss of this ability, in turn, can spell the earlier loss of teeth.  

Slower-aging DPSCs showed a strong capacity to use fats as a fuel source to create the energy needed for regeneration and other cellular processes. Also, the metabolic differences between fast- and slow-aging cells could be identified even before the onset of aging, suggesting that metabolic activity serves as an early indicator of DPSC aging and can predict the cells’ ability to regenerate. 

“These findings are important for future regenerative dentistry,” said lead author Hannele Ruoholo-Baker, PhD, who holds appointments with the UW School of Dentistry, the School of Medicine’s Department of Biochemistry and Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, and Department of Bioengineering.

“Resident adult dental stem cells are known to participate in tooth regeneration and repair that follows injury. Aging impedes this essential regeneration capacity of human adult stem cells. Understanding and combating aging is a grand challenge in modern biology,” she said.  

The team also included personnel from the SRM Institute of Science and Technology in Chennai, India; the College of Dentistry at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Dammam, Saudi Arabia; the Covance Genomics Laboratory in Redmond, Washington, and UW’s Department of Pharmacology, Department of Comparative Medicine, and Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering. 

“This study is an excellent example of the importance of collaboration across disciplines in the life and clinical sciences, in this case between dentistry, stem cell biology, and developmental biology,” said Richard Presland, PhD, associate professor and graduate program director in the UW Department of Oral Health Sciences. 

The study, “Metabolism as an Early Predictor of DPSCs Aging,” was published by Scientific Reports.

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