Bulletin of Dental Education

U.S.-Brazil Team Bioengineers Tooth Crowns in Second Mammal Species

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Researchers at The Forsyth Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo in Brazil have successfully used tissue-engineering techniques to regenerate rat tooth crowns. The advance follows Forsyth’s widely publicized regeneration of pig tooth crowns in 2002 and adds evidence that it may, one day, be possible to grow new human teeth from an individual’s own cells.

“We are very excited because mammalian systems tend to operate in similar ways,” said Pamela Yelick, Ph.D., Assistant Member of the Forsyth staff and the principal investigator. “Having regenerated teeth of a second mammalian species allows us to hope for similar success with human teeth.”

In their newly reported work, the Forsyth team found that it was possible to maintain individual tooth-forming cells in culture for six days before implanting them—thus demonstrating that adult dental stem cells can give rise to tooth crowns containing dentin and enamel and indicating that it might be possible to expand enough such cells in culture to grow full-sized teeth.

In addition to Dr. Yelick, team members included Drs. Monica T. Duailibi, Joseph P. Vacanti, Conan S. Young, and John D. Bartlett. The advances are reported in the July 2004 Journal of Dental Research, which also includes a British team’s article on the use of non-dental stem cells to grow tooth primorida in mice and an editorial describing “the immense potential” for regenerative and tissue-engineering applications to dentistry.

In the words of Dominick P. DePaola, D.D.S., Ph.D., The Forsyth Institute’s President and CEO, “This groundbreaking science heralds a revolution in dentistry, in which biological tools will increasingly replace mechanical ones.”

According to Bruce Donoff, D.M.D., M.D., Dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, “Having helped fund this important research, we are proud to be collaborators in this future direction of dentistry. These advances are moving the field from technique-driven restoration to those based on biological solutions through regeneration. The possible impact on dental practice and oral health is far-reaching."

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