What if we can grow natural teeth to replace infected, missing or fractured ones?
Scientists from King's College London have predicted that dentists may one day be able to replace missing teeth ones grown from cells taken from their patient’s mouth.
The team took cells from adult human gum tissue, grew them in the lab and merged them with mesenchyme cells (embryonic connective tissue) from mice to grow a hybrid tooth. The mesenchyme cells were cultured to "instruct” the epithelial cells to start growing into a tooth.
Lead researcher Professor Paul Sharpe said: "Epithelial cells derived from adult human gum tissue are capable of responding to tooth-inducing signals from embryonic tooth mesenchyme in an appropriate way to contribute to tooth crown and root formation and give rise to relevant differentiated cell types, following in-vitro (in a living body) culture.”
The Next Step
Professor Sharpe mentioned that the next major challenge is to find a way to culture adult human mesenchymal cells and grow enough of them for it to be a useful technique in the clinic. He also hoped that one day the technology could replace current dental implants, which cannot reproduce a natural root structure.
The findings are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Dental Research.