Grow Your Own Teeth; Breakthrough in the Lab May Spell the End of Dentures
Byline: Fiona MacRae Science Reporter
SCIENTISTS have made teeth from stem cells in a world first that could make dentures a thing of the past.
They looked like normal teeth, were sensitive to pain and chewed food easily.
While the experiments were on mice, they pave the way for people to 'grow their own teeth' as required.
The technique could also be adapted to other organs, allowing hearts, lungs and kidneys to be grown inside the body to replace parts worn by age or damaged by disease.
The Japanese study focused on stem cells - 'master cells' with the ability to turn into other cell types.
The researchers from the Tokyo University of Science identified two types of stem cell, which together contain all the instructions for a fullygrown tooth.
The cells were grown in the laboratory for five days until they formed a tiny tooth 'bud'.
This was then transplanted deep into the jawbone of a mouse that had had a tooth removed.
Five weeks later, the tip of the tooth broke through the gum. And after seven weeks, it was fully grown, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
The researchers, who repeated the experiment many times, also showed that the new, bio-engineered teeth were fully functional.
Dr Kazuhisa Nakao said: 'Every bio-engineered tooth erupted through the gum and had every tooth component such as dentine, enamel, pulp, blood vessels, nerve fibres, crown and root.' Importantly, the rodent recipients had no trouble eating.
The cells used were taken from mouse embryos, but the scientists believe it should be possible to make teeth from other types of cell as well.
They are now looking for suitable cells in people. Possibilities include skin cells and cells from the pulp inside teeth.
They also have to work out how to control the size of the bio-engineered teeth, as those grown in the experiments were slightly smaller than usual.
The process would also have to be speeded up if it was to be used on people as human teeth take years to form.
However, the pioneering technology could one day allow those with teeth missing to fill the gaps in their smile without having to resort to false teeth, bridges or synthetic implants. …