The building blocks for hardy (insensitive) teeth come from sensitive nerves, says a new study.
Like any other tissue or organ in the body, the tooth too needs to be repaired when damaged, especially the pulp, connective tissues, blood vessels and nerves. Just like elsewhere in the body, here too resident stem cells constitute the repair brigade that tackles the damage and helps re-grow hard and soft tissues.
Researchers at Karolinska Institute in Sweden have long been discussing the origin of these stem cells. By studying the teeth of mice, researchers have been able to map the fate of individual cells.
A previously unknown type of stem cells, belonging to the nerves of the tooth, seems to be at work.
More surprising, these are nerves that would normally be associated with the tooth's extreme sensitivity to pain.
The researchers discovered that young cells, which at first are part of the neural support cells, or the glial cells, leave the nerves at an early stage of the foetal development. They change their identity and become both connective tissues in the tooth pulp and odontoblasts, or the cells that produce the hard dentin underneath the enamel.
Nerves have been known to house stem cell reserves, from where multipotent stem cells (the kind that can develop into different kinds of cells) embark on their repair journeys.
But the latest discovery presents the hope that in future, scientists will be able to tinker with the repairmen and possibly learn how to grow new teeth in adults!