Research between the Kornberg School of Dentistry and the College of Engineering uses stem cells to regrow the pulp-dentin complex

Associate Professor of Endodontology Maobin Yang, director of the Regenerative Health Research Laboratory at the Kornberg School of Dentistry, and Professor and Department Chair of Bioengineering Peter Lelkes have been collaborating on the research for three years. Yang and Lelkes’ work focuses on using dental stem cells to regenerate the  – pulp  and dentin, tissue.

In generating the tissue using stem cells, there’s one major problem. “When you put the components into the canal, they don’t have spatial control, so they don’t know where to grow the pulp and the dentin—the dentin outside and the pulp inside. So we need structure.”

That’s where Lelkes, a Laura H. Carnell Professor, came in: He worked with Yang to develop a bioengineered two-sided scaffolding to guide the tissue growth.

This is one of the great cases when he says, ‘Here, I have a clinical problem, let’s try to find an engineering solution to this problem.'”
— Peter Lelkes, Department Chair, Bioengineering

“The beauty of the system is that we have shown in vitro , that we can engineer a two-sided scaffold, and can guide the stem cells to differentiate into both pulp cells and dentin, producing odontoblasts that will eventually repair the root canal. We—our smart scaffold—can do this differentially with great efficacy.”

Yang and Lelkes’ partnership was born out of a friendship that occurred by happenstance: When Yang arrived at Temple six years ago, he initially worked out of a lab in Lelkes’ department and found a mentor and friend in Lelkes. So when he needed bioengineering assistance in his research, he turned to Lelkes.

“This is one of the great cases when he says, ‘Here, I have a clinical problem, let’s try to find an engineering solution to this problem,’” Lelkes said.

The pair recently published their findings in the journal Tissue Engineering.