New teeth- straight from the lab?
“The dream of new teeth” was a collaboration between Nils J. Jacobsen, Arne Hensten and Qalbi Khan.
The article was Jacobsens last article, published shortly before he passed away at 89 years old.
Despite the optimism and promising results that the field has shown in the recent past, Jacobsen and colleagues state that a clinical application still awaits.
The dental community has long been fascinated by the thought of growing a third set of teeth. According to Nils Jacobsen and colleagues’ recent overview article on the subject, the past 40 years of research has seen great strides towards this goal. There have been several key breakthroughs, based heavily on knowledge acquired in stem cell research.
Experimenting on human teeth, through all its embryological developmental stages, requires several medical and ethical considerations. Jacobsen’s article underlines that our knowledge has therefore mainly been gained from trials conducted on animals such as mice, rats, mini-pigs and dogs.
Recent studies listed in the article also describe results from in-vitro cell cultivation, where combining stem cell populations are deemed promising for germinating tooth. In mice, whole tooth germs could be grown after transplanting into empty bone sockets.
Stem cell niches
Several promising stem cell niches of the tooth have also been studied and reported. Their use in regeneration and repair of specific tissues, as related to the pulp, dentin and periodontal ligament are especially gaining promise, as demonstrated in recent studies.
Despite the optimism and promising results that the field has shown in the recent past, Jacobsen and colleagues state that a clinical application still awaits. This is mainly due to the time and growth needed to develop a tooth and its root, along with successful eruption into functionality. In other words, what takes weeks or months in rodents, takes years in humans. Although growth-stimulating molecules may seem to solve some of the obstacles, studies that evaluate undesirable side effects of these are still scarce.
Overall, Jacobsen and colleagues state that the path leading to clinical application of lab-grown teeth is long and ultimate success distant. But studies utilizing stem cell niches to repair and regenerate specific dental tissues, are already bearing fruits.