Stem Cell Therapy To Regrow Teeth: Where We Are
For the last decade now we have been promised the advent of dental stem cell therapy to help regrow our missing teeth. With the growth and expansion of newer technologies like dental implants, and advances in root canal therapy, the talk of stem cells has subtly taken a back seat. The question remains: how far away are we from stem cells actually impacting the dental market?
Sungtao Shi, professor and chairman at the University of Pennsylvania department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, is at the forefront of this research and he is showing how close we may actually be to this new form of treatment.
Professor Shi has been working for the past ten years testing the possibilities of dental stem cells after discovering them in his own child’s baby tooth. His team has learned more about how these dental stem cells work, and how they could be safely be used to regrow dental tissue, known as pulp (this is the tissue that we see within our teeth).
Shi along with David Mooney (Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard University) are making claims that these stem cells can be directly placed within our dental pulp to help regrow parts of a tooth that have been damaged by decay.
Several other researchers have also chimed in getting similar results in their own laboratories. Paul Sharpe, a leading bioengineer at King’s County London, has noted that his lab findings indicate mobilizing dental stem cells into our own pulp helps regrow lost dentin. He claims that the new dentin that is formed completely fuses with our own healthy dentin.
Sharpe has also add that this form of tissue engineering could be the first real advance in dental pharmaceuticals, and that we could see this on the market very soon.
The question that this form of therapy poses is this: how much of these stem cells need to be synthesized and given to each individual? The amount will be critical as too much may lead to serious side effects in people. Clinical trials will need to be conducted to see what amount of the agent is safe.
Sharpe is now investigating larger groups of potential agents to determine which stem cell therapy works best for decaying teeth and also working on the optimal dose.
Sharpe’s team is also working on a new delivery system, which is more practical to modern dental clinics: The chosen agent of stem cells will be dissolved in gel-form, and is injected directly into a cavity and bathed with ultraviolet light until it has solidified. This is a quick and easy procedure for any trained dentist.
The hope is to properly introduce newer stem cell treatments into modern dentistry, although, researchers still need to perform clinical trials with human patients for efficacy and safety standards.
Some of the dental stem cell treatments are currently being considered to be approved for other uses in humans, which he hopes will expedite the process for eventual FDA approval. “A lot of dental treatments are still in the dark ages,” Sharpe says. “It’s time to move forward.”
We find ourselves in a revolutionary time in the field of dentistry. Over the next decade we will hopefully see newer agents like these enter the market and make a significant impact on our communities. This new stem cell technology will hopefully also reduce the sky-rocketing prices of certain other dental procedures.
Ultimately, we will have to wait and see how quickly clinical trials move forward, and how efficacious these agents are on a mass scale.