Cats commonly suffer from a dental disease called tooth resorption (TR). It is caused by odontoclasts; cells that are normally responsible for milk teeth shedding. In some cats, these cells inappropriate reactivate later in life and attack the permanent teeth. The disease is painful and extractions are often the only possible treatment.
We studied the genetic basis of TR and identified 12 genes that are highly activated in affected teeth. We developed a model system to test how each gene contributes to odontoclast reactivation and to test whether they could become therapeutic targets. However, odontoclasts are difficult to grow in the lab and studies require bone marrow donations for every screen. In order to reduce our reliance on tissue donations for such functional studies, we propose to create a bioarchive of cat cells that can be programmed to become most cell types in the body. These cells would be available to anyone wishing to work on cat diseases. They are produced by taking cells called fibroblasts from tissues removed during neutering, growing them, and freezing them in a biobank. These stock fibroblasts can then be taken from this bank and reprogrammed into stem cells which are used to produce specialized cells including odontoclasts. The aim of this study is to create a depository of feline fibroblast cells, create feline stem cells from them and convert them into odontoclasts and other cells to create improved model systems for drug testing, and to further feline regenerative medicine.
***January 2023 Study Update from the Principal Investigator:
Tooth resorption is a condition in cats who get tooth decay resembling cavities, but the cause is unknown. This investigation attempts to create cells called “osteoclasts” that may be responsible for this disease, so they can be studied to see what makes them act abnormally. In order to create these cells, an innovative technique was designed to turn normal cells into stem cells, which can then turn into any cell type, including osteoclasts. Work is ongoing and early results are encouraging.