Scientists say the answer to wound healing may be stem cells. This is because they develop all over the body, including in teeth, into specialised cell types. Researchers may have discovered a mechanism that may provide a novel solution to tooth repair. The team discovered a gene called Dlk1 is able to enhance stem cell activation and tissue regeneration in tooth healing.
For the study, a team of researchers, led by Dr Bing Hu from the University of Plymouth's Peninsula Dental School, came together to investigate this fascinating new discovery. They found a whole new population of mesenchymal stem cells, cells that comprise of skeletal tissue, in a growing mouse incisor model. These cells help form tooth dentin - hard tissue that covers the main body of a tooth. When these cells are activated they send a message to the mother cells of the tissue to manage and control the number of cells that are being produced.They do this with the help of a molecular gene known as Dlk1.
"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," Dr Hu, who is also part of the University's Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed), told a news portal. Adding, "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.
Researchers are hopeful this mechanism could help improve tooth reparation, as well as treat tooth decay, crumbling, and trauma. Even though the findings look promising, further research is needed to determine treatment duration and dose. "The work has taken place in lab models at this stage, and further work needs to be done before we can bring them into human use. But it's a really big breakthrough in regenerative medicine that could have huge implications for patients in future," Dr Hu told a news portal.
Co-author of the study Professor Christopher Tredwin, Head of Peninsula Dental School told a news portal: "We expect those researchers will soon provide dental patients better time and cost-effective solutions to serious tooth problems -- from trauma to caries."
The study's findings were originally published in the journal Nature Communications.