Many individuals with ongoing and severe dental problems are faced with the prospect of permanent tooth loss. Examples include dentinal degradation due to caries or periodontal disease; (accidental) injury to the mouth; and surgical removal of teeth due to tumors associated with the jaw. Clearly, a technology that offers a possible alternative to artificial dentures by designing and transplanting a set of living teeth fashioned from the patient's own pulp cells would greatly improve the individual's quality of life.
The NIH announces a new technology wherein dental pulp stem cells from an individual's own postnatal dental pulp tissue (one or two wisdom teeth) can potentially be used to engineer healthy living teeth. This technology is based upon the discovery of a subpopulation of cells within normal human dental pulp tissue that has the ability to grow and proliferate in vitro. These (dental pulp) stem cells can be induced under defined culture conditions to form calcified nodules in vitro and have been shown to differentiate into a dentin/pulp like structure in vivo.