Could You Grow Your Own Replacement TMJ?

Within the last decade, stem cell research has received quite a bit of attention. It has infused the medical and scientific worlds with the hope of incredible treatment options in the future, such as curing previously incurable diseases and repairing severely damaged tissue. A Columbia University team of researchers has recently produced amazing results through stem cell research. They have grown over 50 healthy bone structures from stem cells, including a complex temporomandibular joint. Dr. Askari gives a brief overview of the process that promises to revolutionize medical treatment.

Understanding Stem Cells

Most people recognize the term “stem cells,” although the average person may not be able to fully describe how they work. For a cell to be considered a stem cell, it must possess two critical traits; the ability to change, or differentiate, into other cell types, and the ability to regenerate by dividing itself into more stem cells. Stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they can differentiate into any human cell type. Researchers can manipulate these cells to generate any tissue found in the human body.

The controversy surrounding stem cell research originates from the harvesting of embryonic tissue, which until recently was considered the optimum source of stem cells. Recent experiments, however, have uncovered pluripotent stem cells residing in the pulp (center) of your tooth. Even teeth that have been marked for extraction (i.e. wisdom teeth) contain viable cells that can be used for research.

Putting Stem Cells to Use

At Columbia’s Biomedical Engineering Lab, a team of researchers have prepared bone scaffolds by thoroughly washing animal bones with water, special detergents, and enzymes. After removing cellular material and residual DNA, the newly “anonymous” bone serves as a scaffold for a cellular bone graft. A specially designed bioreactor uses the scaffold as a template to direct the stem cells into forming a new bone structure. Different bioreactors are used for different structures. For instance, the bioreactor that created the TMJ is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand. In the future, you may be able to replace a TMJ to treat TMJ dysfunction, or grow your own dental implant replacement if you lose a tooth.

Although it may be a while before these developments can be used to treat patients, the advancement of stem cell research and the discovery of dental stem cells promise an exciting future for the dental and medical field. To learn more about how technology can improve your dental health, contact our Farmington Hills Dentist office at (248) 474-6434. We serve patients from Chicago, Detroit, Farmington Hills, Dearborn, Livonia, and the surrounding areas.

To learn more, or to schedule an appointment with one of the experts at the Comfort Dental Group, then contact us today by calling our office at (248) 474-6434. We welcome patients living in and around Farmington Hills, Livonia, Novi, Northville, Westland, and Dearborn Heights, MI.

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