Get to the root of it

Get to the root of it

As the incidence of degenerative diseases continues to rise, stem cell research is breaking new grounds. Scientists are constructing biological substitutes that help restore and maintain normal function in diseased and injured tissues or organs, enlightens Dr Binita Srivastava

Applications of regenerative medicine technology may offer new therapies for patients with injuries, end-stage organ failure, or other clinical problems. Scientists in the field of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering are now applying the principles of cell transplantation, material science, and bioengineering to construct biological substitutes that will restore and maintain normal function in diseased and injured tissues. The stem cell field is a rapidly advancing aspect of regenerative medicine as well, and discoveries here create new options for this type of therapy.

Recently exciting new researches in medical and dental sciences have put the dental and medical doctors in the forefront of helping their patients. It has been discovered that numerous life-threatening situations can be tackled with various therapies derived from one’s own stem cells obtained from deciduous and permanent teeth. The most vital benefit that dental stem cells bear is their key ability of regenerating cells unlike the other conventional forms. This ability of regeneration and growth of fresh tissues and cells is the focus of regenerative medicine. It utilises personalised therapy modules by using the patients’ own stem cells for biologically compatible treatment modalities.

Dental stem cells are the most accessible stem cells; they are isolated from the dental pulp of healthy teeth, periodontal ligament including the apical region of developing teeth and other tooth structures. They can be used for specifically treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.

The dental surgeon plays a pivotal role in recovery and utilisation of these stem cells in both dental and medical regenerative therapies.

Currently, patients suffering from diseased and injured organs can be treated with transplanted organs. However, there is a shortage of donor organs, and the situation is worsening every year, as the population ages and adds to the cases of organ failure. At present, liver, heart, and kidney ailments can be treated by organ transplant from a donor. However, rejection rate of donated organs is quite high, thereby leading to a practical paucity of organs available for suffering patients. Also, diseases like stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple myeloma, and diabetes, to name a few, cannot be treated by transplantation. Suitable stem cells provide a stronger hope for these cases. These cells are produced by cell cultures and injected into the body of the patients. It then brings about production of fresh replacement cells, which take over the diseased and damaged cells.

A single embryonic stem cell has the potential to differentiate into all 220 types of specialised cells that make up the human body. Adult stem cells are responsible for the regeneration and replacement of tissue damaged by disease or injury. Mesenchymal stem cells taken from the dental pulp and bone marrow are able to differentiate into cartilage, bone and adipose cells.

Bone marrow transplants were the first successful stem cell therapies. Human Adipose-deprived stem cells have been shown to differentiate in the lab into bone, cartilage, fat, and muscle. Umbilical cord stem cells have been differentiated into several cell types such as cells of the liver, skeletal muscle, neural tissue and immune cells.

Benefits

n Stem cells are valuable for testing new drugs. Drugs are being applied directly to human cells and these provide more relevant data than drug testing on animals.

n Adult stem cells may be used to regenerate bone and correct oral and craniofacial defects.

n Regenerative therapy is less invasive than surgical implantation, and early animal studies suggest comparable results in strength and function of the biological implant as compared to a traditional dental implant.

n Stem cells extracted from the dental pulp of a third molar could be harvested, then directly implanted into the pulp chamber of a severely injured tooth. The goal is to regenerate the pulp inside the damaged tooth, preventing the need for endodontic treatment.

n Stem cells derived from the periodontal ligament may offer promise for regenerating the periodontal ligament and other supporting structures of the periodontium that have been destroyed by gingival disease, with an alternative approach to traditional clinical therapies.

New stem cell therapies are already under review or have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many other therapies are in various stages of product development. As the number of people affected by degenerative diseases continues to increase, there will be a greater need for new treatment options for the ever-growing ageing population. Harvesting and storing stem cells now will ensure their availability in the future when they might be needed most.

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