May 24, 2010
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The discovery of stem cells in dental pulp has led to much research
and predictions about their potential uses. Although the full
possibilities of tooth-derived stem cells are not yet known, some
researchers believe that they could one day be valuable for
regenerating dental tissues and possibly other tissues as well.
Pamela Robey, Ph.D., chief, Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases
Branch, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, says
that because no one knows for certain what the full possibilities are
for the cells isolated from dental pulp, nor can they accurately
predict if or when they’ll be used in clinical settings, patients and
professionals need to make informed decisions.
“What we do know,” she said, “is the cells from dental pulp in baby
or wisdom teeth have the ability to make dentin and pulp and they might
have the ability to make bone but right now that’s all we really know
Because “the data for other things is not hard yet, we can’t say how
useful for the future they’ll be,” she said.
Dr. Jeremy Mao,a professor of dental medicine and director of the
Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at Columbia
University, believes that dental stem cells and related bioengineering
technologies will transform dentistry in a magnitude that is far
greater than amalgam and dental implants.
“Some of the technologies may happen 10 years down the road but
others may happen within 10 years,” he predicted.
Presently, there are no human trials taking place with the dental
postnatal cells and there are no clinical applications available. There
also is no central place for dentists or patients to read about the
latest in dental stem cell research. Dr. Robey advised anyone hearing
claims of new evidence and dental stem cells to consult the Web site www.clinicaltrials.gov.
For more information about stem cells, visit the National Institutes of
Health’s Stem Cell Information page at http://stemcells.nih.gov/info.