Researchers at Columbia College of Dental Medicine have been working to develop a treatment for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. The TMJ acts like a sliding hinge connecting your jawbone to your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. TMJ disorders can cause extreme pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles which control jaw movement. The National Institutes of Health says as many as 10 million people in the United States, primarily women, suffer from TMJ disorders.
Unfortunately, there are currently no good treatment options for TMJ pain other than surgery or palliative care. The problem is very similar to worn out knee cartilage. In both cases there is not yet a way to regenerate the problem tissue. Ironically, the Columbia researchers have found stem cells existing in the joint could possibly be manipulated to repair the damage.
In a series of experiments described in ScienceDaily, the researchers were able to isolate fibrocartilage stem cells (FCSCs) from the joint. After injecting a molecule that activated the stem cells, the cells formed cartilage and bone. The experiments worked in the laboratory and also when implanted into animals. This exciting breakthrough research could lead to new cures for many problems which result from loss of cartilage. The list includes TMJ and knee sufferers.
Read more about stem cells and regenerative medicine in Health Attitude.