The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s
Center for Craniofacial Regeneration was established to develop tissue engineering-based treatments for wounds and defects of the face and skull that restore function as well as appearance. Charles Sfeir, DDS, PhD (top), director of the Center for Craniofacial Regeneration, and his multidisciplinary team of scientists and research physicians are dedicated to the development of techniques that result in a natural-looking, fully functioning face that is compatible with the patient’s self image.
Currently at the Center, dentists, engineers, and stem cell specialists are teaming up to grow a human tooth from scratch, a goal that one day could eliminate the demand for dentures and dental implants. "The potential is huge," said Dr. Sfeir. "I don't want to come across that we could regrow someone's missing teeth now, but there has been a lot of progress in the last few years."
Along with Dr. Sfeir, Elia Beniash, PhD (bottom), associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, anticipates great strides in the area of tooth regeneration. They and other Center researchers are drawing on recent laboratory success in growing bone. Along with extracellular matrix scaffolds fortified with proteins that encourage bone to grow, the scientists discovered that bone replaced the scaffold material in a rabbit animal study. Testing of the strength of the new bone is ongoing as well as whether or not it will fill with bone marrow.
"We think it will," said Dr. Beniash. "That's part of our ongoing work."
Using the same methods, the team plans to build tooth scaffolds pumped full of stem cells and implant them in lab animals, next to organs where blood vessels are plentiful. Another option is to try situating the scaffolding in the animal's bone, theorizing the bone would encourage the tooth to harden.
The members of the Center for Craniofacial Regeneration continue to meet these and other challenges by exploring many approaches to the regeneration of bone and tissue. In addition to using extracellular matrix scaffolds, the researchers are developing novel tools that will contribute to the restoration of facial structure and function. Some of these include mineralized structures, protein-based polymer gels, non-viral gene delivery based on the calcium phosphate system, and cell-surface interaction.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (02/08/09)
Dental Economics (02/08/09)
The Center for Craniofacial Regeneration
Bio: Dr. Elia Beniash
Bio: Dr. Charles Sfeir