Journal of dental research – In the late 1980s organ transplant surgeon Joseph P. Vacanti of Harvard medical School and polymer chemist Robert S. Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conceived the idea of placing the cells of an organ or tissue on a prefabricated biodegradable scaffold with the goal of generating tissues and organs for transplantation.

The Journal of dental research records that their approach was based on the fact that living tissues are made of cells constantly signaling to one another and often moving around within a three-dimensional community of sorts. Each cell seems to know its place and role in the larger collective that forms and maintains a functional tissue.

Therefore, if the right mix of dissociated cells is reaggregated within a scaffold that replicates their natural 3-D environment, the cells should instinctively reform the tissue or organ to which they belong.

Vacanti and Langer’s early successes regene-rating pieces of liver tissue from liver cells using this scaffold-based strategy have since led to widespread experimentation with the technique to produce other complex tissues, such as heart muscle, intestine, mineralized bone and now teeth. Journal of dental research

Pamela C. Yelick and John L. Bartlett of the Forsyth Institute in Boston began working with Vacanti in 2000 to investigate the feasibility of engineering teeth this way by focusing on pigs, which, like humans, produce two sets of teeth over their lifetime.

Young also took part in these experiments recorded in Journal of dental research for which raw material was derived from the unerupted third molars of six-month-old pigs. To obtain a heterogeneous random mixture of dental enamel epithelial and pulp mesenchymal cells, the pig teeth were broken into tiny pieces and then further dissolved using enzymes.

Tooth shaped scaffolds were made from biodegradable polyester plastics and coated with a substance that makes the plastic sticky, so that cells can adhere to it. The cell mixtures were seeded into the scaffolds, and the constructs were surgically implanted into rat hosts, wrapped in a fatty white material rich in blood vessels that surrounds the intestines. Journal of dental research

Initially the scaffolds provided support for the cells, but later they dissolved as intended and were replaced by new tissue. When the implants were examined after 20 to 30 weeks, tiny tooth like structures were visible within the confines of the original scaffold. Journal of dental research

Their shape and the organization of their tissues resembled the crowns of natural teeth. They also included most of the tissues that make up a normal tooth, demonstrating for the first time that enamel, dentin, pulp, and features that appeared to be developing tooth roots could he regenerated on scaffolds. Thus was the Journal of dental research prepared.