In a successful Phase 1 clinical trial in China, researchers have shown that there may be a new way of addressing childhood dental trauma that leads to a ‘dead tooth’. The team successfully transplanted stem cells from baby teeth into the injured teeth of children, which regenerated dental pulp in the injured teeth. Impressively, the newly generated dental pulp contained all the structures of normal dental pulp, including blood vessels and sensory nerves. In addition, the study subjects didn’t experience any significant side effects from the treatment. In the future, this very common childhood tooth condition could be fixed by regenerating dental tissue with stem cells from baby teeth.
As many as half of all children experience at least one dental injury to a tooth. Dental injuries in developing teeth can result in the death of dental pulp and set the stage for the loss of a permanent tooth. The trial results highlight the great potential of dental stem cells in treating a wide range of dental and medical conditions, as well as other possible medical conditions.
The results of the trial were published in Science Translational Medicine in August 2018. The research team was jointly led by Songtao Shi of the University of Pennsylvania and Yan Jin, Kun Xuan, and Bei Li of the Fourth Military Medicine University in China.
We’re really eager to see what we can do in the dental field,” Shi says, “and then building on that to open up channels for systemic disease therapy.
Regenerating dental tissue with stem cells from baby teeth
The researchers studied 36 children between the ages of 7 and 12 who had a tooth injury and still had some baby teeth. The trial compared the results of the stem cell treatment from their baby teeth versus a conventional treatment called apexification. Apexification is a method of inducing a calcified barrier at the apex of a non-vital tooth with incomplete root formation to produce more favorable conditions for conventional root canal filling. 26 of the children received stem cell treatments, while a control group of 10 children received apexification, with no stem cell treatment.
Prior to implantation, each patient received a complete root canal on the affected tooth. Following the implantation, patients who received the stem cell treatment showed growth in the tooth root and closure of the apical foramen, the opening at the apex of the root of a tooth. These two conditions showed that the hDPSC spurred sustained root development. (This would be impossible following a root canal.)
Using data collected during the observation period, the scientists created 3-D models of the affected tooth. The model data showed that the affected tooth root had grown at both the 6- and 12-month marker. In addition, the researchers measured increasing thickness of the dentin present in the tooth at 6- and 12-months post-implantation. The researchers did not observe any growth in the control group. The study group also showed blood vessel formation and dental pulp vitality at 6- and 12-months after the stem cell treatment.
In addition, patients who received the stem cell treatment reported that they regained sensation in the damaged tooth. Children who received the standard treatment did not regain any sensation in the affected tooth. Sensation in teeth is important for detecting temperature changes and avoiding damage to the teeth while eating or drinking.
The value of dental stem cell banking
The process could one day lead to treatments for adults who have experienced damage to their permanent teeth. While adults do experience traumatic dental injuries, they lose teeth more frequently through disease and inadequate dental care. Today, approximately 130 million Americans have lost at least one permanent tooth and 40 million have lost all their teeth. These numbers are expected to climb to 200 million by 2040.
The results of this trial deliver promising hope for restorative dental and medical treatments. It also highlights the value in storing dental pulp stem cells from baby teeth or teeth that are extracted for other reasons (e.g., wisdom teeth, impacted teeth and baby teeth), which could be a real benefit in future restorative dental and medical treatments.
If you would like more information about preserving your family’s dental pulp stem cells, please contact us at the National Dental Pulp Laboratory , (774) 843-2984.