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Stem cells and tissue regeneration

By Vicki Cheeseman, Associate Editor

Much is going on in the dental industry with regard to the research of stem cells. George T-J Huang, DDS, MSD, DSc, the chair of endodontics at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, has recently researched the reprogramming of dental stem cells into cells that may be used for tissue regeneration. DentistryIQ had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Huang about this latest research and how he feels it will impact the dental profession.

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DentistryIQ: Please explain your latest research findings.

Dr. George Huang: Dental stem cells are about 10 times easier than commonly used skin fibroblasts to be reprogrammed to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). Once reprogrammed, they can be guided to differentiate into most of the cell types in our body; therefore, they are very useful for tissue regeneration.

DentistryIQ: Please explain your scientific findings from the recent study in which you regenerated dental pulp and dentin for the first time in a mouse experimental model.

Dr. Huang: The findings suggest that it is very possible that we can regenerate diseased dental pulp and repair the tooth without going through the traditional root canal procedures.

DentistryIQ: Is there a PDF or Web site link that would give us more information about your recent studies?

Dr. Huang: Yes, you can visit http://dentalschool.bu.edu/departments/index.html, go to
Endodontics ... faculty ... and my name.

DentistryIQ: How are dental stem cells collected and stored?

Dr. Huang: Cells are isolated from the freshly extracted teeth — usually third molars — then allowed to grow in culture dishes, and frozen down in liquid nitrogen.

DentistryIQ: How close are researchers to developing a reliable process for tissue regeneration using stem cells in humans?

Dr. Huang: Depending on the organs, some are already being done or in clinical trials; some are still in large animal studies. Dental stem cells for dental tissue regeneration may take about five to 10 years to be tried in humans. Other countries may start sooner.

DentistryIQ: In your opinion, is there a "best" source of stem cells?

Dr. Huang: That depends on the purpose. So far, adult stem cells are already being used for tissue regeneration or to treat diseases in humans. Adult stem cells are usually best obtained from bone marrow, adipose tissues, the oral cavity, and teeth. Fetal tissues, such as umbilical cord and placenta, are also a good source of stem cells.

DentistryIQ: Do you foresee a time when dental implants and root canals will be obsolete due to the ease and reliability of regenerated tissue using stem cells?

Dr. Huang: About 10 to 15 years from now. Dental implants will still be used, but perhaps less ... not obsolete. Tissue regeneration may be more common, but still needs time to know their clinical outcomes.

DentistryIQ: How do you determine a suitable candidate for tissue regeneration?

Dr. Huang: Anyone who is interested in having this alternative approach with the indicated disease conditions and without other health complications is potentially a suitable candidate.

DentistryIQ: Thank you very much for your time, Dr. Huang!

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