Yao Yao, Graduate Student (Giannobile Laboratory), Oral Health Sciences Program, University of Michigan School of Dentistry
As any toothpaste ad will testify, healthy gums are critical for healthy teeth. Periodontitis is a condition in which gums recede and expose the roots of the teeth. The bacteria that cause periodontitis can actually damage the underlying bones and ligaments that hold the teeth, leading to tooth loss. Treating this condition is difficult and often involves surgical grafts of tissue to replace the lost gum tissue. Recently, newer approaches are being developed in which human periodontal ligament cells are seeded onto manufactured scaffolds of biomaterial. At the micro-scale, such decorated scaffolds are truly micro-jewelry for human tissue repair and regeneration. In this image, a highly ordered "fibrillar-like" scaffold mimics the 3D tissue microenvironment. The human periodontal ligament fibroblasts which are seeded on the scaffold form continuous and well-oriented cell sheets around the fiber within a short time. When grafted, the scaffold is degraded and the cells secrete factors that promote new tissue regeneration.