Temporomandibular joint or more commonly referred to as TMJ, is a condition that many suffer from on a global scale. A recent study found out that approximately 10 million people, women being a majority in the US are victims to this disorder.
So what is the temporomandibular joint?
The joint that links your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are located right in front of your ear, is known as your temporomandibular joint. It acts like an axis that allows movements of your jaw that enables you to speak, chew and yawn.
If you are having trouble with your jaw and the controlling muscles in your face, it is called temporomandibular disorders or TMD. The cause of this disorder is not clearly known or defined. Probable symptoms of TMD, which dentists believe could actually be a result of issues in the jaw muscles or with the parts of the joint itself.
Acute ache and soreness are often triggered by TMD that may affect both sides of your face. This may subsequently lead to various other indications like concentrated discomfort in the jaw, face and head; inconvenience in gulping and talking and faintness. The condition may be temporary or possibly last for several years. It is a common occurrence between the ages of 20 to 40.
Made of fibrocartilage, TMJ in a healthy state helps the jaw to function smoothly by acting as a cushion. Nevertheless, the cartilage is not equipped with the capability to repair or renew. Hence, all the available treatment or surgery does, is disguise the indicators but not actually repair the essential impairment of the joint.
Published in Nature Communications under “Exploiting endogenous fibrocartilage stem cells to regenerate cartilage and repair joint injury,” a research team at Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine (USA) carried out a cell culture studies as well as clinical trials on animals, acknowledged that stem cells inside the TMJ possessed the potential to develop cartilage and bone. Further investigations by the research team presented that Wnt, a protein, with its signalling activity led to the diminution of these fibrocartilage stem cells (FSCSs) in animals. As a result of this, it instigated significant weakening of the cartilage on introducing an accepted inhibitor of Wnt into the animals’ impaired TMJ stimulated development and recuperation of the joint.
“This is very exciting for the field because patients who have problems with their jaws and TMJs are very limited in terms of clinical treatments available,” said Mildred C. Embree, DMD, PhD, assistant professor of dental medicine at Columbia and lead author of the study. Dr. Embree’s team, the TMJ Biology and Regenerative Medicine Lab, conducted the research with colleagues including Jeremy Mao, DDS, PhD, the Edwin S. Robinson Professor of Dentistry (in orthopedic surgery) at Columbia.
The next step of the investigation is to explore options of suitable Wnt inhibitors that may be tried under clinical conditions. In a university press release, Jeremy Mao, a co-author on the paper, talked about the implications of these results. “They suggest that molecular signals that govern stem cells may have therapeutic applications for cartilage and bone regeneration. Cartilage and certain bone defects are notoriously difficult to heal.”
In the long run, Dr. Embree and her team say the outcomes could spearhead eventual strategies for mending fibrocartilage in other joints, including the knees and vertebral discs. “Those types of cartilage have different cellular constituents, so we would have to really investigate the molecular underpinnings regarding how these cells are regulated,” the researcher said.
 Exploiting endogenous fibrocartilage stem cells to regenerate cartilage and repair joint injury – Mildred C. Embree, Mo Chen, Serhiy Pylawka, Danielle Kong, George M. Iwaoka, Ivo Kalajzic, Hai Yao, Chancheng Shi, Dongming Sun, Tzong-Jen Sheu, David A. Koslovsky, Alia Koch & Jeremy J. Mao
 Stem cells from jaw bone help repair damaged cartilage – Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, October 10, 2016
 TMJ stem cells used to repair cartilage in the joint – Posted by DentistryIQ Editors, October 12, 2016