The prospects for tooth regeneration in the 21st century are compelling. Using the foundations of experimental embryology, developmental and molecular biology, the principles of biomimetics (the mimicking of biological processes), tooth regeneration is becoming a realistic possibility within the next few decades. The cellular, molecular, and developmental "rules" for tooth morphogenesis are rapidly being discovered. The knowledge gained from adult stem cell biology, especially associated with dentin, cartilage, and bone tissue regeneration, provides additional opportunities for eventual tooth organogenesis. The centuries of tooth development using xenotransplantation, allotransplantation, and autotransplantation have resulted in many important insights that can enhance tooth regeneration. In considering the future, several lines of evidence need to be considered: (1) enamel organ epithelia and dental papilla mesenchyme tissues contain stem cells during postnatal stages of life; (2) late cap stage and bell stage tooth organs contain stem cells; (3) odontogenic adult stem cells respond to mechanical as well as chemical "signals"; (4) presumably adult bone marrow as well as dental pulp tissues contain "odontogenic" stem cells; and (5) epithelial-mesenchymal interactions are pre-requisite for tooth regeneration. The authors express "guarded enthusiasm," yet there should be little doubt that adult stem cell-mediated tooth regeneration will be realized in the not too distant future. The prospects for tooth regeneration could be realized in the next few decades and could be rapidly utilized to improve the quality of human life in many nations around the world.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.