Medical research is making amazing new discoveries every day, and one just happened that caught our eyes. Stem cells have long been used to treat and heal a wide variety of medical issues through tissue regeneration, and scientists are constantly trying to learn about them so they can be used more effectively. Recently, at the University of California-San Francisco, researchers determined a key part in how stem cells work: how they actually decide which tissues to regrow. How did they do this? By looking at the front teeth of mice! What could this all mean for you? Today, we discuss how this recent finding could impact medicine as a whole.
Stem Cells, Mice, and You
Have you ever looked at the front teeth of a mouse? While they might seem adorable, in actuality they are strong chisel-like tools that are essential to a mouse’s survival, and while a small bit of them stick out into a rodent’s mouth, most of the tooth is really located deep in the jaw. These teeth are constantly being worn down, and as a result, they need to be regenerated constantly as well. Stem cells located in the jaw rebuild these teeth as they are used—much like the lead of a mechanical pencil.
With this information, scientists wanted to learn more about one part of the process: how do the stem cells “decide” to form new teeth tissue? Stem cells can be used to regenerate just about every tissue in the body, so how do they know when they need to create tooth tissue in mice?
The answer, it seems, lies with something called integrins, which are proteins that sit in cell membranes and link the internal skeleton of cells to the larger protein scaffolding of the surrounding tissue. When these integrins come in contact with stem cells, the cells naturally start to multiply and regenerate the tissue. Researchers are still trying to determine exactly what triggers this process, but this new discovery provides a valuable breakthrough in the knowledge about how stem cells work in mammals.
Researchers hope to one day use stem cells to heal burns, patch damaged heart tissue, and even grow various organs from scratch. With this new information, scientists are closer than ever to making this a reality, which would be a tremendous advancement for medical science and public health on a global scale.
This information could also provide insight into how and why cancer cells grow, which could be essential to learning how to both treat and prevent the disease in the future.
We constantly work to stay on top of the latest advancements in medical science so we can continue to offer our patient’s cutting-edge care. With the research on stem cells progressing every day, it’s just a matter of time before they’ll be used at the dentist’s office to provide a wide array of solutions we never thought possible.
About the Author
Dr. Chris Haag is a general, restorative, and cosmetic dentist based in Lincoln, NE, and he participates in continuing education every year in order to stay on the cutting-edge of dentistry. He currently practices at Pioneer Greens Dentistry, and he can be reached through his website or by phone at (402) 483-7502.