New teeth work as well as the old

C&I Issue 15, 2009

Japanese scientists have grown ‘fully functional’ teeth in mice that should perform just as well as the originals they replaced. Two years ago, the researchers reported replacing teeth in mice with teeth grown from single cells in a Petri dish in the laboratory. However, this is the first time that the teeth have been found to be fully functional, with similar hardness for chewing and biting and a similar nervous sensitivity as seen in normal teeth – both prerequisites if the approach is to be developed as a therapy to replace diseased or damaged teeth (PNAS doi 10.1073/ pnas.0902944106).

 ‘[This work] will not only promote “tooth regenerative therapy”, whereby organ germs of bioengineered teeth are transplanted into the jawbone to grow third generation teeth, but is expected to evolve into a variety of organ regenerative technologies for liver, kidneys and other organs,’ according to lead researcher Takashi Tsuji at Tokyo University of Science.

 Tsuji and colleagues grew the new teeth from mesenchymal and epithelial cells that naturally develop into teeth. The two cell types were injected into a drop of protein collagen, found in healthy body tissues, and were transformed into a budding tooth or germ cell, ready for transplantation. Tests of the fully grown teeth in the current paper revealed that tooth hardness – of both enamel and dentine – was equivalent to that of normal teeth.

 The researchers expect the work to make a ‘substantial contribution’ to the development of bioengineering technology for future organ replacement therapy.

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