Spotlight on Research
Pamela Yelick, PhD
Biphasic Scaffolds for Alveolar Bone and Tooth Regeneration
March 26, 2018
Pamela Yelick, PhD, tenured Full Professor in the Department of Orthodontics, and Director, Division of Craniofacial and Molecular Genetics, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, is spearheading breakthrough research aimed at defining effective methods to regenerate bone and tooth structures for craniofacial repair and reconstruction. This includes testing whether E1001(1K) scaffolds can support the formation of alveolar bone, the specialized type of jaw bone that supports dentition. Her studies of E1001(1k) scaffolds are being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Joachim Kohn, Ph.D., Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Director of the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ.
As Director of the Division of Craniofacial and Molecular Genetics, Dr. Yelick explained the broad importance of this work – extending from the battlefield among military personnel to those with birth defects, cancers, traumatic injuries, and many other circumstances. “There are all sorts of approaches used to repair cranial-facial defects. What we’re trying to do is create improved, biologically based approaches. The idea is to take host cells and use them to create constructs to repair cranial-facial defects.”
Dr. Yelick noted the importance of today’s researchers to be able to supplement their research with other sources and singled out Osteo Science Foundation for its role in her research. “It’s fabulous to have a funding source like this. The U.S. is really dependent on funding sources like these to keep our lead in the world – Osteo Science Foundation is clearly helping make that possible. It’s a tremendous opportunity to have received one of their grants.”
Previous studies have shown that tyrosine based E1001(1K) scaffolds can promote mineralized tissue formation. Dr. Yelick’s study is testing whether E1001(1K) scaffolds can support the formation of alveolar bone, the specialized type of jaw bone that supports dentition. Their approach involves seeding E1001(1K) scaffolds with cultured dental stem cells (DSCs) derived from extracted human wisdom teeth, followed by developmental in vitro and in vivo characterizations of alveolar bone, dentin, pulp, periodontal ligament, and enamel tissue formation. Yelick indicates that her approach is unique because she uses neural crest cell (NCC) derived dental pulp stem cells that naturally form alveolar jaw bone and tooth tissues. In contrast, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), commonly used for craniofacial reconstructions, are derived from the embryonic mesoderm, and do not naturally form alveolar bone, whose specialized architecture can withstand the strong mechanical forces of mastication.
The ability to successfully engineer functional, durable alveolar jaw bone would be a significant improvement over current craniofacial repair techniques using bone grafts from non-NCC derived bone (fibula, rib, etc.), which eventually resorb over time. Yelick noted, “To date, we have performed in vitro characterizations of DSC-seeded E1001(1K) scaffolds, and in vivo studies using a rat mandible repair model. To continue these promising studies, here we are performing studies to validate the formation of alveolar jaw bone and tooth tissues in a medium sized rabbit mandible critical sized defect model.” The successful completion of the proposed studies will allow Yelick to move forward to a large animal mandibular defect model, prior to pre-clinical human trials.
Dr. Pamela Yelick at Tufts University has developed a unique approach incorporating adult human dental pulp cells (DPSCs) that are embryologically derived from Neural Crest Cells, to form alveolar bone and tooth tissues. These adult (as opposed to embryonic) human dental progenitor cell populations are more relevant for craniofacial jaw bone and tooth regeneration than commonly used iliac crest derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are not derived from the NCC. This technique has great promise in reconstructive surgery as the human DPSCs have the ability to regenerate craniofacial alveolar bone, which exhibits unique properties that enable it to withstand the strong forces of mastication, and to support biological and synthetic tooth implants.