When researchers at Columbia College of Dental Medicine took a closer look at the cartilage of the temporomandibular joint recently, they realized this cartilage could do some pretty impressive things.
The researchers took the cartilage from animals affected with a condition called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder – a misalignment of the temporomandibular joint that holds the bottom jaw to the rest of the skull – and manipulated the cells. What happened next could mean hope for millions of people suffering from TMJ disorder.
“The manipulated stem cells repaired the damaged cartilage in the temporomandibular joint,” says Dr. Alexandra George, a dentist who specializes in neuromuscular dentistry and orthodontics in Wexford, Pennsylvania. Neuromuscular dentistry aims to correct the alignment of the bite and alleviate the pain of temporomandibular joint disorder.
According to Orthopedics This Week, when the researchers transplanted a single cell into a mouse, it spontaneously grew new bone and new cartilage, forming what is known as a “bone marrow niche.”
This development could mean a world of difference for TMJ disorder sufferers if it is eventually able to be used on human patients.
“This could open up a lot of doors for TMJ sufferers,” says George. “Imagine just being able to regrow temporomandibular joint cartilage to replace the damaged cartilage. And if that technology could be used for other disorders, that would be even more incredible.”