A new technique allows the body’s own stem cells to be orchestrated to regenerate teeth. Using a process called cell homing, Jeremy Mao, DDS, PhD, professor of dental medicine at Columbia University, has migrated stem cells to a 3-D scaffold infused with growth factor that holds the translational potential to yield an anatomically correct tooth in as little as 9 weeks once implanted. The study was published in the Journal of Dental Research.

An animal-model study showed that homing stem cells to a scaffold made of natural materials and integrated in surrounding tissue obviated the need to use harvested stem cell lines, or to create an environment outside of the body where the tooth is grown and then implanted once it has matured. Instead, the tooth can be grown "orthotopically," or in the socket, so that the tooth will integrate with surrounding tissue in ways that are impossible with traditional implant materials.

"A key consideration in tooth regeneration is finding a cost-effective approach that can translate into therapies for patients who cannot afford or who aren’t good candidates for dental implants," Mao says. "Cell-homing-based tooth regeneration may provide a tangible pathway toward clinical translation."