Developmental biology and building a tooth.
Abstract: During the last 15 years, we have started to understand tooth development at the gene level. The list of genes known to regulate the position, shape, or number of teeth is lengthening rapidly. Interestingly, so far all these genes have important functions in the mediation of cell communication, which is generally considered the most important mechanism driving embryonic development. The communication is mediated by small signal molecules that are sent to nearby cells, thereby affecting their behavior and advancing differentiation. There are dozens of different signals and their receptors and target genes, which together form complicated signaling networks. The defects in several human conditions affecting tooth development have been identified recently, and these genes have turned out to be necessary components of signaling networks. Experimental studies using transgenic mice as models for human syndromes such as ectodermal and cleidocranial dysplasia have pinpointed the exact roles of the disease genes and indicated ways for possible new therapies. It is also possible that by combining the knowledge of molecular regulation of tooth development with the recent breakthroughs in stem cell research, dreams of building new teeth in dental practice may come true in the future.
Stem cells and tissue engineering: prospects for regenerating tissues in dental practice.
Thesleff I, Tummers M.
Med Princ Pract
2003;12 Suppl 1:43-50
Abstract: In general, human tissues have a very limited potential to regenerate. However, recent progress in stem cell research and in tissue engineering promises novel prospects for tissue regeneration in dental practice in the future. Stem cells have been discovered in many adult tissues, including teeth, and stem cells from embryos have the potential to form all adult tissues. Embryonic stem cells can now be cultured and even produced from adult cells by the nuclear transfer method. Due to the rapid progress of research in molecular biology, particularly in the field of developmental biology, we are now starting to understand at the level of genes and molecules how the development of dental tissues is regulated. For instance, specific signal molecules have been identified which regulate the development of teeth and bones from progenitor cells. This information is already being used for the generation of dentoalveolar tissues in vitro and in vivo. Could we perhaps grow new enamel, dentine, periodontal ligament, bone, or even whole new teeth for our patients in the future?