UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry to launch new Center for Regenerative Sciences

A digital illustration of stem cells.
Digital illustration of stem cells.

Contact: Steven Lee, 210-450-3823, lees22@uthscsa.edu

Content by Kristen Zapata

SAN ANTONIO, June 14, 2024 – The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Dentistry is preparing to launch its Center for Regenerative Sciences, a new research initiative that aims to position the university at the forefront of regenerative dentistry and medicine.

“The center will provide new avenues for interdisciplinary collaborations to accelerate the translation of preclinical discoveries into therapeutic benefit for patients suffering from dental, oral and craniofacial diseases,” said Yong-Hee Chun, DDS, PhD, MS, associate professor of periodontics at the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry.

Head and shoulders photo of Dr. Chun in a suit.
Yong-Hee Chun, DDS, PhD, MS

Chun’s research focuses on understanding the molecules essential for tooth development and mineralization. “When teeth and their support structures are malformed, such as with molar-incisor hypomineralization, or are damaged by diseases like periodontal disease, new treatments are needed. These treatments aim to regenerate the affected tissues and restore normal function,” she said.

Anibal Diogenes, DDS, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Endodontics, also highlighted the center’s potential.

“We have the capability to advance the field rapidly due to our ability to translate biological advancements into clinical applications faster than many other medical fields,” he said. “This center represents a huge opportunity to bootstrap the field, diversify our research and enhance collaboration among our scientists.”

The Center for Regenerative Sciences will focus on several key areas, including the development of advanced tissue regeneration strategies, 3D printing of tissues and acellular scaffolds, the encapsulation of growth factors, morphogens and chemotactic molecules for targeted drug delivery.

Dr. Diogenes in his white coat sitting in the clinic.
Anibal Diogenes, DDS, PhD

“Our goal is to create an environment within the body where biological cues guide cells to achieve their full potential,” Diogenes said. “By integrating basic sciences with clinical applications, we can bridge gaps and push the field of regenerative dentistry forward.”

The center intends to accomplish this by leveraging and expanding the school’s existing strengths in regenerative endodontics, dental and craniofacial development and the advancement of reliable sources of potent stem cells.

Diogenes’ research, for example, includes work on stem cell-based root canal therapies for children.

“When a child’s dental pulp is damaged or infected, we can activate their own stem cells to reestablish the pulp and allow the tooth to continue developing, which is crucial for their overall growth and development,” he noted. “This has significant implications not only for a child’s dental health but also for their nutrition, speech development and psychosocial well-being.”

Brij B. Singh, PhD in the lab with a pipette.
Brij B. Singh, PhD

Brij B. Singh, PhD, associate dean of research at the school, spoke to the broader impact of the new center.

“This initiative will not only enhance our research capabilities but will attract top talent from various fields, creating a collaborative environment that can lead to breakthroughs in both dental and medical sciences,” he said. “The vision is to become a global leader in regenerative sciences, ultimately improving patient care outcomes everywhere.”

UT Health San Antonio is the largest academic research institution in South Texas with an annual research portfolio of $413 million.

“The body has amazing regenerative capacity and the oral cavity is very special,” Diogenes said. “It’s very rich in stem cells that are extremely potent with a high regenerative capacity. They are also unique because oral stem cells come from an origin where they can even become neurons. This means they have the potential to be used as therapies in many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s therapies and for spinal cord injuries. There is so much potential there that extends far beyond the oral and craniofacial structures.”

The Center for Regenerative Sciences will be formally launched by the school later this fall. It will be one of three centers of dental research, joining the Center for Global and Community Oral Health and the Center for Pain Therapeutics and Addiction Research. Recruitment for the center’s director is currently underway.

For more information, visit the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry’s website.



The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio), a primary driver of San Antonio’s $44.1 billion health care and biosciences sector, is the largest academic research institution in South Texas with an annual research portfolio of $413 million. Driving substantial economic impact with its six professional schools, a diverse workforce of more than 8,500, an annual expense budget of $1.46 billion and clinical practices that provide 2.6 million patient visits each year, UT Health San Antonio plans to add more than 1,500 higher-wage jobs over the next five years to serve San Antonio, Bexar County and South Texas. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit UTHealthSA.org.

The UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry offers 18 degrees and programs in both dentistry and dental hygiene, world-renown faculty educators, a diverse student population, state-of-the-art clinical facilities and a distinguished research enterprise. Departments include comprehensive dentistry, developmental dentistry, endodontics, periodontics, and oral and maxillofacial surgery. Scientists collaborate with clinicians and research teams worldwide, and work across multiple medical and dental disciplines to find new treatments, advancing knowledge of oral health, biomaterials, cancer, pain and more. To learn more, visit https://www.uthscsa.edu/academics/dental.

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