Dentistry study shows how ‘positive stress’ can boost tooth tissue regeneration

Stress is typically thought of as a negative phenomenon, but researchers at Hong Kong University (HKU) Dentistry found “positive stress” that can induce good changes in tooth stem cells to make them more resistant to injury and disease.

The study, published in the Journal of Dental Research, is the first to show that adaptive mechanisms in tooth stem cells induced by preconditioning to stress can boost the tooth pulp tissue regeneration. The researchers found that oxidative stress caused by a low-oxygen environment can elicit a protective response to make tooth stem cells less vulnerable to harm.

The research team led by Dr Waruna Dissanayaka, Assistant Professor in Oral Biosciences, aims to develop an approach to regenerate lost tooth pulp, which could revitalise the tooth and enable it to function normally.

The research team developed a preconditioning protocol that modified the cells genetically to mimic a responsive state for low oxygen conditions in order to activate a protein that induces adaptive changes in the cells.

Dr Yuanyuan Han, a co-investigator of the team pointed out: “As this protein was reported to activate several key adaptive mechanisms, we wondered whether this phenomenon can be applied to improve cell survival following transplantation until a sufficient blood supply is achieved”.

Dr Dissanayaka plans to utilise the knowledge of specific genes and proteins responsible for inducing cell survival to identify drugs that can be used in clinical tissue regeneration. He believes these new findings will promote the development of new strategies to enhance the therapeutic potential of tooth stem cells.