New knowledge of the cellular make-up and growth of teeth can expedite developments in regenerative dentistry—a biological therapy for damaged teeth—as well as the treatment of tooth sensitivity, international researchers have found.
Teeth develop through a complex process during which soft tissue bonds with hard tissue into a functional body part. As an explanatory model for this process, scientists often use the mouse incisor, which grows continuously and is renewed throughout the animal’s life.
Despite the fact that the mouse incisor has often been studied in a developmental context, many fundamental questions about the various tooth cells, stem cells and their differentiation and cellular dynamics remain to be answered.
Using a single-cell RNA sequencing method and genetic tracing, researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, the Medical University of Vienna in Austria and Harvard University in the USA have now identified and characterised all cell populations in mouse teeth and in young growing and adult human teeth.
Their findings are published in Nature Communications.
“From stem cells to the completely differentiated adult cells we were able to decipher the differentiation pathways of odontoblasts, which give rise to dentine—the hard tissue closest to the pulp—and ameloblasts, which give rise to the enamel,” Professor Igor Adameyko said. “We also discovered new cell types and cell layers in teeth that can have a part to play in tooth sensitivity.”
Some of the findings also explain certain complicated aspects of the immune system in teeth, as well as shed new light on the formation of tooth enamel, the hardest tissue in our bodies.
“We hope and believe that our work can form the basis of new approaches to tomorrow’s dentistry,” Professor Adameyko said.
“Specifically, it can expedite the fast-expanding field of regenerative dentistry, a biological therapy for replacing damaged or lost tissue.”