Stems Cells to Help Grow New TeethPublished:December 9th, 2011
In the past, the best and closest option people had to replacing their teeth were dentures and dental implants. But scientists have found an even better alternative, by simply growing a new tooth for patients. This may sounds a lot like science fiction, but like all other past scientific achievements, anything is possible with a lot of work and patience. Researchers at the Nova Southeastern University (NSU) have been at the forefront of developing stems cells to help grow new teeth.
This technology is receiving a lot of wide spread support from practicing dentists. According to a national survey, done in 2009 by the NSU, more than half of the dentists interviewed indicated that they would use stem cell engineering therapies on their patients within the next decade. 96% of them thought that this technology will likely dominate the dentistry industry, in the future.
The approach used by NSU to replace teeth and dental tissue, is to grown them in a lab first and implant them into the patient afterwards. These teeth will have the ability to function, grow and develop like normal teeth, which will allow patients to experience a more normal sensation in their mouth, as compared to dentures or even dental implants.
This technology is based on the use of adult stem cells; the building blocks of life. Stems cells grow in flat layers of single cells, when cultivated in lab. To give them the shape of a normal tooth, the cells are seeded on a tissue engineering scaffold made from the same polymer material as the one used to make bio-resorbable surgical sutures.
The scaffolds then provide mechanical support to the stem cells and control the size and shape of the tooth. Once the stem cells have been seeded on the scaffolds, the researchers added growth factors to direct the stem cells to take the form of a tooth.
Testing on this research is currently at the animal testing phase, which has proved to be successful. This technology has a long way to go before it goes “main stream”, with current estimates for wide spread use ranging between 10-50 years from now. Though, with added funding, the results of the research could speed up the process of making available to people.