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(Boston) – What if you could use your own stem cells to grow new tissue? Clinical trials are underway to use stem cells to repair critical organs and tissues such as heart and nerve tissues. Stem cell-mediated regeneration could become more prevalent for restoring all kinds of tissues—including tooth tissue—in the next 20 years, according to Chair of Endodontics at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine Dr. George Huang. His keynote lecture, “It was the stem cell all along,” will look at the power of stem cells at the School’s Science Day, March 25.
“I am thrilled at the prospect of turning stem cells into specialized tooth making cells and nerve cells,” says Dr. Huang. “We can even reprogram human dental stem cells into human embryonic-like cells called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which may be an unlimited source of cells for tissue regeneration.”
Dr. Huang, who studies regenerative endodontics, shows dental stem cells are easier and faster to reprogram than the commonly used cells—fibroblasts. This was true with all three types of dental stem cells Dr. Huang’s research team tested.
His team was the first to recreate two major human tooth components—dental pulp and dentin—from scratch using adult dental stem cells.
“This could mean the end of the traditional root canal, which takes away dental tissue instead of growing it, and would revolutionize dental clinical practice,” Dr. Huang says.
You can find these stem cells in baby and wisdom teeth, traditionally seen as useless and thrown away. The cells remain viable for about a week after extraction if stored under the right conditions, but are most potent just after they are removed. The dental stem cells from the discarded teeth can be used to regrow damaged or decayed parts of a mature tooth.
Researchers saw empty root canals fill with pulp-like tissue with ample blood supplies. Dentin-like tissue grew back on the dentinal wall.
Dr. Huang holds a DDS, Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Endodontics, Master of Science in Dentistry, and a Doctor of Science in Oral Biology. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics. He has held faculty positions at the University of California (San Diego and Los Angeles), the University of Maryland, Taipei Medical University, and, prior to Boston University, Columbia University, where he was the Director of the Division of Endodontics. Dr. Huang is the Herbert Schilder Chair in Endodontics and Director of the Postdoctoral Program in Endodontics at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine.
Dr. Huang has held several research positions in the National Institutes of Health and is the author of more than 100 publications, including peer reviewed articles, abstracts, and book chapters.
The mission of Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine is to provide excellent education to dental professionals throughout their careers; to shape the future of dental medicine and dental education through research; to offer excellent health care services to the community; to participate in community activities; and to foster a respectful and supportive environment.