The progression of stem cell research in dentistry

DentistryIQ interviews Dr. Thomas G.H. Diekwisch, head of the Dept. of Biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry and director of the Brodie Laboratory for Craniofacial Genetics, about his most recent research involving dental stem cells and his view of the future of stem cells in dentistry.

Mar 29th, 2011

By Vicki Cheeseman, Associate Editor

Recently DentistryIQ had the opportunity to interview Thomas G.H. Diekwisch, DMD, PhD (sc.), PhD (phil.), a professor of anatomy/cell biology, bioengineering, orthodontics, and periodontics, as well as the head of the Department of Biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry. Dr. Diekwisch is the director of the Brodie Laboratory for Craniofacial Genetics and the Allan G. Brodie Endowed Chair for Orthodontic Research.

Click here for more articles about stem cells and dentistry.

DentistryIQ: Dr. Diekwisch, please explain the new approach you have been working on of using stem cells to re-anchor teeth in the jaw.

Dr. Diekwisch: Our approach is based on two key elements: the use of periodontal ligament progenitors and the preparation of a structured surface.

DentistryIQ: Has this technique been used on humans? If not, when do you expect that human clinical trials will commence?

Dr. Diekwisch: This technique has not been used in humans as of yet. It may take a couple of years, but it’s not too far away.

DentistryIQ: When teeth are reattached, will they be stable for the life of the patient?

Dr. Diekwisch: They have been stable in rats for half a year. Rats have a much shorter life span than humans, thus we estimate that these replanted teeth will last in humans for a long time.

DentistryIQ: What are the difficulties in working with stem cells?

Dr. Diekwisch: The greatest difficulty perhaps is a common misperception that all stem cells are derived from embryos or that stem cells cause cancer. In general, there are embryonic and adult stem cells, and there are now also induced pluripotent stem cells. The cells we are working with in these studies are adult progenitors. These are considered much safer for patients.

DentistryIQ: In your opinion, what is the best source for stem cells, and how are they obtained?

Dr. Diekwisch: Our data indicate that these adult progenitors are fairly differentiated and therefore relatively safe to use.

DentistryIQ: How long does it take for tissue regeneration to occur?

Dr. Diekwisch: Tissue regeneration will take a few weeks.

DentistryIQ: What conditions would make tissue regeneration unlikely?

Dr. Diekwisch: Periodontally diseased tissues are often heavily inflamed, and inflammation in general reduces the ability of a tissue to regenerate. However, once the inflammation is cured, little is in the way of conducting regenerative procedures thereafter.

DentistryIQ: What do you foresee as the most important use for stem cells in dentistry in the coming years?

Dr. Diekwisch: Dental regenerative medicine is currently focusing on a number of areas including pulp regeneration, whole tooth regeneration, craniofacial bone regeneration, periodontal regeneration, and others. Another attractive area is the use of odontogenic stem cells for medical applications, including organ regeneration. All have their place, but some of them are more within reach than others. We believe that our approach may have a significant public health impact.

For more information about the Brodie Laboratory for Craniofacial Genetics, click here.

More in Clinical Tips