Dentists could soon tell patients to throw away their dentures after scientists discovered a way to ‘grow’ new teeth coated in enamel.
The technique involved growing cells from human gum tissue, then combining them with tooth stem cells taken from a mouse embryo.
These cell clusters were then transplanted by researchers into an adult mouse kidney where they subsequently grew into teeth-like structures.
The human-mouse hybrid teeth were also discovered to contain dentin – the key structural material of teeth – as well as hard protective enamel. There was also evidence of root formation.
The two kinds of cell used were epithelial ‘surface lining’ cells from human gum tissue, and mesenchymal ‘tooth’ cells from the mouse embryo.
Professor Paul Sharpe, who led the research at King’s College said: „The human epithelial cells are capable of responding to signals from the embryonic tooth cells from the mouse to contribute to crown and root growth.
„These accessible human epithelial cells are thus a realistic source for consideration in human tooth formation.”
At present it is not considered ethical or practical to use human embryos in dentistry.
„The next major challenge is to identify a way to culture adult human mesenchymal cells to be tooth-inducing,” said Prof Sharpe.
„At the moment we can only make embryonic mesenchymal cells do this.
„What is required is the identification of adult sources of human epithelial and mesenchymal cells that can be obtained in sufficient numbers to make bio-tooth formation a viable alternative to dental implants.”