Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

Scientists uncover gene that enhances tissue regeneration in tooth healing

PLYMOUTH, UK: The usefulness of stem cells in the regeneration of dental and other body tissue has been established by numerous studies, though their potential in a clinical setting has yet to be proved. An international team of researchers has discovered a specific gene that increases stem cell activation and tissue regeneration during tooth healing, potentially offering a novel approach to tooth repair.

The study was led by Dr Bing Hu of the University of Plymouth’s Peninsula Dental School. He worked in collaboration with researchers from universities in China, Denmark, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and the US. The researchers are the first to show that the delta-like 1 homologue (DLK1) gene is vital for the activation and regeneration of mesenchymal stem cells—those that make up skeletal tissue like muscle and bone, as well as tooth dentine.

The researchers were also able to prove that the DLK1 gene can enhance stem cell activation and tissue regeneration in a tooth wound healing model. This could provide the basis for a new method of tooth repair, though further studies will need to be conducted to ascertain the validity of the findings for clinical application.

“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,” said Hu in a press release marking the study. “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.”

“The work has taken place in laboratory models at this stage, and further work needs to be done before we can bring them in to human use. But it’s a really big breakthrough in regenerative medicine that could have huge implications for patients in future,” he added.

“We are highly excited by the recent progresses in Dr Bing Hu’s group,” commented Prof. Christopher Tredwin, Head of the Peninsula Dental School and co-author of the paper.

“This new work, together with a recent high-impact paper published in the EMBO Journal, which is about another type of stem cell in the tooth—epithelial stem cells—puts Plymouth at the front of the world’s dental and craniofacial stem cell research and regenerative medicine. We expect those researchers will soon provide dental patients better time- and cost-effective solutions to serious tooth problems—from trauma to caries,” Tredwin said.

The study, titled “Transit amplifying cells coordinate mouse incisor mesenchymal stem cell activation”, was published on 9 August 2019 in Nature Communications.

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