Dentists get cracking on the stem cell front
Stem cells are able to re-create or morph into a variety of cell types found within the organisms they originate from. Dr James Mah, dental researcher at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) said that in spite of all their potential one of the biggest challenges with stem cells is gathering enough of them to work with.
Tooth root pulp is home to these cells but knowing where to find them is one thing, recovering them is another. Dr Mah and Dr Karl Kingsley helped develop a new method for extracting large numbers of stem cells from teeth.
Common methods for extracting root pulp all lead to a low stem-cell recovery rate. The researchers sought to discover how to extract pulp in a manner that consistently produced a higher yield.
Firstly, they tried cracking teeth but this usually produces the same shattering effect as a hammer, thereby reducing the number of viable stem cells.
Happy Ghag, a dental student working on the project, thought he had a solution to the dilemma. He approached the UNLV engineering department and enlisted their help in manufacturing a tooth-cracking instrument based on how glass is cut cleanly.
The “Tooth Cracker 5000” uses a clamp to hold a tooth in position for a cutting tool to score the surface and a blade to crack it. The result: a perfectly halved tooth.
Average pulp recovery rates employing common extraction methods are around 20%. With the new method they are about 80%.