A new approach to anchor teeth back in the jaw using stem cells has been developed and successfully tested for the first time by scientists.
The breakthrough represents a potential major advance in the battle against gum disease.
Experts at the University of Illinois at Chicago used stem cells obtained from the periodontal ligament of molars extracted from mice, expanded them in an incubator, and then seeded them on barren rat molars.
The stem cell-treated molars were reinserted into the tooth sockets of rats.
After two and four months, the stem cells aligned and formed new fibrous attachments between the tooth and bone, firmly attaching the replanted tooth into the animal’s mouth.
Tissue sections showed that the replanted tooth was surrounded by newly formed, functional periodontal ligament fibres and new cementum, the essential ingredients of a healthy tooth attachment.
In contrast, tooth molars that were replanted without new stem/progenitor cells were either lost or loosely attached and were resorbed, the scientists found.
The study, published in an online issue of the journal Tissue Engineering, was funded through a grant by the National Institutes of Health.
The natural surface of the tooth played an essential role in the study.
To verify that the ligament was formed by the transplanted stem cells and not by the animal’s own cells, stem cells were labelled with green fluorescent protein prior to seeding them on the molars and re-inserting the teeth into the animal’s mouth.
According to Tom Diekwisch, director of the Brodie Laboratory and senior author on the paper, this is the first progenitor cell-based regeneration of a complete periodontal ligament in which a functional tooth was attached.