The post-natal bone marrow contains a subset of stromal cells (skeletal stem cells) that have the ability to form bone, cartilage, hematopoietic stroma, adipocytes and perhaps other tissues as determined by clonal analysis and in vivo transplantation into immunocompromised mice. Similar, but not identical, cells have also been isolated from peripheral blood, although they are rare in humans. Dental pulp of permanent and deciduous teeth, and periodontal ligament also contain stem cells that have the ability to regenerate a dentin/pulp-like complex, and cementum and periodontal ligament-like structures, respectively. Using appropriate ex vivo expansion conditions and scaffolds, animal models have been created to demonstrate the efficacy of ex vivo expanded populations that contain skeletal stem cells to regenerate a number of tissues. With these techniques in hand, it is possible to consider the recreation of a viable tooth and supporting structures for restoration of normal masticatory function.
Keywords: tissue engineering, oral hard tissues, post-natal stem cells