The potential impact of a tissue-engineered temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disc is immense. Currently, patients suffering from a severely dysfunctional TMJ have few options. Facing the general lack of safe, effective TMJ disc implants, many patients undergo discectomy, a procedure that removes the injured TMJ disc in hopes of reducing debilitating symptoms associated with severe TMJ disorders. This procedure may not be ideal as the TMJ is left without an important functional component. Tissue engineering is a promising approach for the creation of viable, effective implants. The first attempt to investigate TMJ disc cells on a biomaterial was conducted in 1991. The first TMJ tissue-engineered constructs to be tested biochemically and biomechanically were formed in 1994; however, in examining this study in retrospect, it is clear how little TMJ knowledge was available at that time. Within the last 10 to 15 years, multiple studies have investigated critical TMJ disc characteristics, and while this characterization is not complete, these data have created a solid foundation for tissue-engineering research. Thus, the last 5 years have yielded core studies investigating the principal elements of tissue engineering: scaffold, cell source, and biological/biomechanical stimuli. Although TMJ disc tissue engineering is still in its formative years, its future is quite promising. Key studies are now being conducted that will assist in the establishment of a solid TMJ disc tissue-engineering approach. As the challenges of tissue engineering are faced and met, the ultimate goal of creating a functional biological implant nears.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology