The first complete single-cell atlas of human teeth

The research shows that the composition of human dental pulp and periodontium varies greatly.

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For decades, scientists have been working on different aspects that involve a combination of genetic and tissue regeneration approaches. The developments in stem cell and tissue engineering offer medical and dental scientists detailed insights into new ideas on how everyday clinical practice can be improved.

Now, scientists at the Institute of Oral Biology at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich have created the first-ever single-cell atlas of human teeth. They used advanced single-cell sequencing technology to differentiate every single cell that is part of the dental pulp and the periodontium.

The study also offers a detailed understanding of the composition of these two issues. Both tissues, the dental pulp and the periodontium, are subject to tooth-specific and bacterially linked pathologies such as caries and periodontitis. Both tissues consist of stem cells that possess great regenerative potential.

The first complete single-cell atlas of human teeth

In the study, scientists determined significant cellular heterogeneity in the dental pulp and the periodontium. They found intriguing similarities in the molecular signatures of the stem cell populations.

First co-author Pierfrancesco Pagella said, “We think their unique microenvironment possibly brings about their different behavior. Our findings suggest that the microenvironmental specificity is the potential source of the significant functional differences of the stem cells located in the various tooth compartments.”

The investigation shows the intricacy of dental tissues and addresses a significant contribution to a superior comprehension of human dental tissues’ cellular and molecular identity.

Last author Thimios Mitsiadis explained“Single-cell approaches could help us understand the interactions of the dental pulp and periodontal cells involved in immune responses upon bacterial insults. Therefore, a single-cell analysis could be helpful for diagnostic purposes to support the early detection of dental diseases. The findings thus open up new avenues for cell-based dental therapeutic approaches.”

“These advances in dental research can lead to more appropriate therapies, successful regeneration of damaged parts of the teeth, and even more precise diagnostic tools in dental pathologies. These innovations are the consequence of the fusion between bioinformatics and modern dentistry.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Pierfrancesco Pagella, Laura de Vargas Roditi, Bernd Stadlinger, Andreas E. Moor, Thimios A. Mitsiadis. A single-cell atlas of human teeth. Science, 9. April 2021. Doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.102405