Researchers at the University of Adelaide have been using adult stem cells to treat gum disease in preclinical animal trials, with significant success. Now, the scientists have been awarded $200,000 in funding from the Australian Stem Cell Centre to expand their research to humans.
According to Dr. Mark Bartold of the University of Adelaide, "We’ve got the proof, in principle, and can regrow a lot of bone around the teeth and restore some of the damage that has been done. As with any new technology, we’ve still got a little way to go. There’s a lot of unanswered questions and more will pop up along the way."
In the past, Dr. Bartold and his colleagues have taken adult stem cells from the jawbones of sheep and pigs, which were then cultured and re-implanted into other animals in whom gum disease had caused bone loss around their teeth. Specifically, the adult stem cells were derived from the ligament that secures the teeth into the jawbones of the animals. Now, the method will be applied to people.
According to Dr. Bartold, it has been estimated that approximately 60% of all Australians suffer from some form of gum disease, in whom it is not uncommon to see advanced stages of periodontitis. In theory, therefore, a cell-based therapy for gum diseases would have a large market in Australia.