A study by researchers from the University of Hong Kong has shown that “positive stress” can be utilised to enhance the therapeutic potential of tooth stem cells by increasing their resistance to injury and disease. According to the university, the study is the first to show that preconditioning tooth stem cells to stress can cause their adaptive mechanisms to boost the regeneration of tooth pulp tissue.
The research team aimed to develop an approach to regenerating lost tooth pulp in damaged teeth through the use of a preconditioning protocol to genetically modify tooth cells. The modifications caused the cells to mimic a responsive state for low oxygen conditions, activating a protein that induces adaptive changes.
Co-author of the study Dr Yuanyuan Han explained: “As this protein was reported to activate several key adaptive mechanisms, we wondered whether this phenomenon can be applied to improve cell survival following transplantation until a sufficient blood supply is achieved”.
She said: “[These] cells activate a metabolic mechanism to produce energy under low oxygen conditions and scavenge harmful metabolites produced in stress conditions”.
Dr Waruna Dissanayaka, lead author of the study, said: “Interestingly, we also found that preconditioned cells significantly enhanced the dental hard tissue formation within the regenerated pulp tissue”.
Pointing out that prior research has already revealed that cells possess a number of adaptive mechanisms for stress and that these are regulated by genes in our DNA, Dr Dissanayaka posited: “If we can activate these genes, downstream expression of specific proteins can prime the cells [to be] less vulnerable to injury.”
The study, titled “HIF-1α stabilization boosts pulp regeneration by modulating cell metabolism”, was published in the Journal of Dental Research.