2005 Volume 68 Issue 2 Pages 89-101
The successful regeneration of complex tooth structures based on tissue-engineering principles was recently reported. The process of this regeneration, however, remains poorly characterized. In this study, we have used histochemistry to examine the regeneration process of tissue engineered teeth in order to determine the cell types that give rise to these engineered tooth structures. Porcine third molar tooth buds were dissociated into single-cell suspensions and seeded onto a biodegradable polyglycolic acid polymer scaffold. Following varying periods of growth in rat hosts, the specimens were evaluated by histology and immunohistochemistry. Aggregates of epithelial cells were first observed 4-6 weeks after implantation. These aggregates assumed three different shapes: a natural tooth germ-like shape, a circular shape, or a bilayer-bundle. Based on the structure of the stellate reticulum in the dental epithelium, the circular and bilayer-bundle aggregates could be clearly classified into two types: one with extensively developed stellate reticulum, and the other with negligible stellate reticulum. The epithelial cells in the circular aggregates differentiated into ameloblasts. The continuous bilayer bundles eventually formed the epithelial sheath, and dentin tissue was evident at the apex of these bundles. Finally, enamel-covered dentin and cementum-covered dentin formed, a process most likely mediated by epithelial-mesenchymal interaction. These results suggest that the development of these engineered teeth closely parallels that of natural odontogenesis derived from the immature epithelial and mesenchymal cells.