A study from King’s College London has shed light on the role that a type of cell plays in the progression of periodontal (gum) disease and how it could provide an avenue for therapeutic intervention.
The research team identified and described the role of a cell known as a telocyte in regulating the inflammatory process that occurs during gum disease. According to the authors, telocytes are thought to be involved in direct cell–cell communication between macrophages, a kind of white blood cell involved in the response to an infection or an accumulation of damaged and dead cells. Macrophages that promote an inflammatory response are known as M1 macrophages, whereas M2 macrophages work to counteract inflammation and encourage tissue repair. The balance between M1 and M2 macrophages is crucial for effectively regulating the body’s immune response.
Using single-cell RNA sequencing and cellular assays, the researchers identified the role of telocytes in regulating the M1–M2 macrophage balance in gum disease and demonstrated their natural ability to shift macrophages from an M1 to an M2 state. This ability to facilitate these transitions could provide a possible strategy for the future treatment of gum disease.
“I hope this study can not only lead to a greater understanding of periodontal disease but also provide an impetus for others to study the potential roles played by telocytes in other tissues,” noted Dr Paul Sharpe, professor of craniofacial biology at King’s College London and co-author of the study.
The study, titled ‘Telocytes regulate macrophages in periodontal disease’, was published online on October 4, 2022 in eLife.