While many doctors are currently using traditional bone regeneration therapy to repair craniofacial tissue, with the help of stem cells, researchers at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry are pioneering the first human study of its kind.

Darnell Kaigler, lead investigator and assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, and colleagues, alongside the Michigan Center for Oral Health Research and Ann Arbor-based Aastro Biosciences Inc., conducted a clinical trial involving 24 patients who required jawbone reconstruction after tooth removal.

Some patients received experimental tissue repair cells, while others were given traditional guided bone regeneration therapy.

"In patients with jawbone deficiencies who also have missing teeth, it is very difficult to replace the missing teeth so that they look and function naturally," said Kaigler. "This technology and approach could potentially be used to restore areas of bone loss so that missing teeth can be replaced with dental implants."

According to researchers in just six to 12 weeks, the results were promising. Patients who received the experimental cells had displayed greater bone density and quicker bone repair compared to the patients who were given traditional guided bone regeneration therapy. When it was time for patients to receive their dental implants, the experimental cells group needed less secondary bone grafting. The essential benefit from the experimental cells was that they were able to use the patient's own cells to regenerate tissue instead of introducing foreign materials.

The experimental cells, which are formerly known as ixmyelocel-T were developed at Aastrom Bioscience Inc. They were extracted from the bone marrow taken from the patient's hip. A proprietary system, which allows different cells to grow at once, was used to process the bone marrow.

Though researcher state stem cell therapy for craniofacial reconstruction is still five to 10 years away, the treatment is best suited for severe defects due to trauma, disease or birth defects.

The study, "Stem cell therapy for craniofacial bone repair: A randomized, controlled feasibility trial," appears this month in the journal Cell Transplantation.