Studies Make Progress in Bioengineering Teeth

Dentistry Today
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While artificial dental implants are today’s standard for tooth replacement therapy, they do not exhibit many properties of natural teeth and can be associated with complications leading to implant failure. In separate studies, though, researchers in Boston and in France have made significant advances in bioengineering teeth. 

In “Bioengineered Tooth Buds Exhibit Features of Natural Tooth Buds,” researchers at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine report new methods for creating highly cellularized bioengineered tooth bud constructs that include features resembling natural tooth buds such as the dental epithelial stem cell niche, enamel knot signaling centers, transient amplifying cells, and mineralized dental tissue formation.

The constructs were composed of postnatal dental cells encapsulated within a hydrogel material that were implanted subcutaneously into immunocompromised rats. The researchers say this is the first report describing the use of postnatal dental cells to create bioengineered tooth buds that exhibit evidence of these features of natural tooth development, pointing to future bioengineered tooth buds as a promising, clinically relevant tooth replacement therapy.

In “Bone Marrow Stromal Cells Promote Innervation of Bioengineered Teeth,” researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and Fédération de Médecine Translationnelle de Strasbourg, France, describe a strategy where autologous mesenchymal cells coming from bone marrow can be used to supply nerves to bioengineered teeth without treatment that uses an immnosuppressor.

The innervation of teeth is essential for their function and protection, but it does not occur spontaneously after injury. This new method provides innervation while avoiding multiple side effects associated with immunosuppressors, the researchers report.

“The exciting studies point to a promising future for bioengineered teeth,” said William V. Giannobile, DDS, MS, DMSc, editor in chief of the Journal of Dental Research, which published the studies. “This cutting-edge research has the potential to advance tooth replacement therapy and the science base to bring such regenerative medicine treatments to improve clinical care.”

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