Bioengineering Tooth Replacements

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new technique developed by an expert in craniofacial development and stem cell biology at King’s College London and his colleagues offers up a new type of tooth replacement.

The scientists wrote in the Journal of Dental Research about how they developed a new method of replacing missing teeth with a bioengineered material enervated from a person’s own gum cells.

Current methods for replacing teeth fail to reproduce a natural root structure, leading to loss of jaw bone due to eating and other jaw movements. This new way of bioengineering teeth with gum cells aims to put an end to this problem.

“What is required is the identification of adult sources of human epithelial and mesenchymal cells that can be obtained in sufficient numbers to make biotooth formation a viable alternative to dental implants,” said Professor Paul Sharpe, lead researcher on the project.

During the research, the team isolated human gum tissue from patients at the Dental Institute at King’s College London, and then grew more of it in the lab. After this, they combined the tissue with the cells of mice that form teeth. By translating this combination of cells into mice, the team was able to grow hybrid human and mouse teeth containing dentine and enamel.

“Epithelial cells derived from adult human gum tissue are capable of responding to tooth inducing signals from embryonic tooth mesenchyme in an appropriate way to contribute to tooth crown and root formation and give rise to relevant differentiated cell types, following in vitro culture,” Sharpe said. “These easily accessible epithelial cells are thus a realistic source for consideration in human biotooth formation. The next major challenge is to identify a way to culture adult human mesenchymal cells to be tooth-inducing, as at the moment we can only make embryonic mesenchymal cells do this.”

Scientists are using bioengineering to do some amazing things in health research. In 2011, scientists at the Children´s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases and The Saban Research Institute of Children´s Hospital Los Angeles said they found a protein to fight leukemia. After bioengineering this protein into purified liquid form, they were able to see how it bonded to leukemia cells and caused their destruction within 24 hours. The protein, CD19-L, even killed leukemia cells that were highly resistant to both standard chemotherapy drugs and radiation. The team is now working to evaluate this new agent for clinical potential against leukemia and to confirm in preclinical studies that leukemic cell destruction can be achieved at non-toxic dose levels.

“The CD19-ligand offers a previously unrecognized defense system against leukemia and opens a new range of therapeutic opportunities for the treatment of leukemia,” said Stuart Siegel, MD, director of the Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Childrens´ Hospital Los Angeles.