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Abstract

Epithelial stem cells have been identified in integumental structures such as hairs and continuously growing teeth of various rodents, and in the gut. Here we propose the involvement of epithelial stem cells in the continuous tooth replacement that characterizes non-mammalian vertebrates, as exemplified by the zebrafish. Arguments are based on morphological observations of tooth renewal in the zebrafish and on the similarities between molecular control of hair and tooth formation. Dissection of the molecular cascades underlying the regulation of the epithelial stem cell niche might open perspectives for new regenerative treatment strategies in clinical dentistry. BioEssays 26:665–671, 2004. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.