Researchers from University of Plymouth’s Peninsula Dental School has discovered a novel mechanism using stem cell activation as a potential solution for tooth repair. The study showed that a gene called Dlk1 enhances stem cell activation and tissue regeneration in tooth healing.
The study was published in Nature Communications.
Stem cells hold the key to wound healing, as they develop into specialised cell types throughout the body.
The team discovered a new population of mesenchymal stem cells (the stem cells that make up skeletal tissue such as muscle and bone) in a continuously growing mouse incisor model. They showed that these cells contribute to the formation of tooth dentin, the hard tissue that covers the main body of a tooth.
The study showed that when these stem cells were activated, they send signals back to the mother cells of the tissue to control the number of cells produced, through Dlk1.
The researchers also proved that Dlk1 can enhance stem cell activation and tissue regeneration in a tooth wound healing model. This mechanism could provide a novel solution for tooth reparation, dealing with problems such as tooth decay and trauma treatment.
Further studies need to take place to validate the findings for clinical applications, in order to ascertain the appropriate treatment duration and dose, but these early steps in an animal model are exciting, explains Dr Bing Hu, Associate Professor, University of Plymouth’s Peninsula Dental School.
Dr Hu, who is also part of the University’s Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed), said: “Stem cells are so important, as, in the future, they could be used by laboratories to regenerate tissues that have been damaged or lost due to disease — so it’s vital to understand how they work.
“By uncovering both the new stem cells that make the main body of a tooth and establishing their vital use of Dlk1 in regenerating the tissue, we have taken major steps in understanding stem cell regeneration.”
The work had been carried in lab models at this stage, and further work needs to be done before bringing them in to human use, says the researchers.