New research has revealed it is possible to extract tooth germ cells from young mice, divide them in two, implant them into mice jaws, and have them develop into two new teeth.
Within the burgeoning field of regenerative medicine, teeth are a primary focus. This is because not only are around 10 percent of people born with missing teeth, but virtually all people eventually lose some teeth due to tooth decay or accidents throughout their lives. Modern dentistry has developed methods for solving tooth loss, such as root canals, implants, and bridges, however none of these procedures can entirely replicate the natural benefits of having an original tooth.
While the upside of being able to grow new teeth in humans are obvious, the body produces only a limited amount of cells which eventually develop into teeth. This has led researchers to question whether artificially growing new teeth from a single tooth cell is within the realm of possibility.
Gene Activation And Inhibiting
The science behind growing teeth from cells involves two factors because teeth develop through the interaction of two types of genes, one which activates growth and another which inhibits. In a recent study, scientists used this knowledge to extract a tooth germ from a mouse and activate it in an isolated state. When the tooth had reached an appropriate size it was divided in half by a nylon thread. Each half then developed separately until they approximated a whole tooth. These were then implanted into mice jaws where they took hold and functioned as normal teeth, allowing for chewing while retaining sensitivity, except for the fact that they were exactly half the size of a normal mouse tooth.
In the future, these same exact methods may be used on children who are born without the normal number of teeth, which is common among people born with cleft palates or Down syndrome. For people with such conditions, their own teeth germs from adult teeth or wisdom teeth could be divided and implanted to make up for their missing teeth.
Stem cell research may also play a role in dentistry of the future. Although contemporary science hasn’t yet figured out how to develop teeth germ cells from human stem cells, the likelihood that this could happen in coming decades is highly probable. For young people today, costly implants and awkward dentures may become a thing of the past.
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