Dental Tribune Europe

Oral organs of fish capable of tissue regeneration

LONDON, U.K./ATLANTA, U.S.: After examining tooth renewal in animals that have tooth replacement and regenerative abilities, researchers from the U.K. and the U.S. identified similarities between the teeth and taste buds of a fish. The results suggest that the fish’s oral organs are able to regenerate tissue and can be manipulated to express the characteristics of different tissue types, under the regulation of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathway.

The study was a collaboration between King’s College London and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Since nearly one-third of all adults over the age of 65 are edentulous, the researchers sought to explore tissue regeneration in more detail. After analyzing cichlid fishes and mouse models and building on previous studies in regeneration, they discovered that replacement teeth share a continuous epithelium with developing taste buds. Moreover, they identified that both organs share analogous stem cell populations and that the BMP signaling pathway distinguishes teeth from taste buds on the shared epithelium.

Mouse genetic models with modified BMP signaling activity also revealed that tooth gene expression is ectopically activated in taste buds when BMP signaling is elevated. These findings indicate that some of the epithelial cell populations have been unacknowledged by researchers and that they show considerable potential in bioengineering and dental therapeutics.

“This research is an excellent example of the power of studying multiple species in order to gain novel insights that can impact upon human regenerative medicine,” said Prof. Paul T. Sharpe, Head of the Centre for Craniofacial and Regenerative Biology at King’s College London.

The study, titled “Developmental plasticity of epithelial stem cells in tooth and taste bud renewal,” is to be published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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