London - Scientists have taken a step closer to growing human teeth from scratch using cells taken from a patient's mouth. They now envisage missing or diseased teeth could one day be replaced by freshly grown, living substitutes.
A “hybrid” tooth made from a mixture of human gum cells and mouse embryonic cells has been grown in laboratory mice to test a method that might in the future be adapted to become an alternative to dental implants.
Researchers believe growing bio-engineered teeth from a patient's own cells could revolutionise dentistry, which in recent years has focused on replacing damaged or missing teeth with porcelain crowns attached to metal implants inserted into the jaw.
“The idea is to identify cells you can put together and will grow into an immature tooth, which will develop into a mature tooth after it is inserted into the patient's mouth,” said Professor Paul Sharpe of King's College London. The “bio-tooth” produced by mixing human gum cells with embryonic mouse cells formed viable roots with good periodontal ligaments - the tissue fibres anchoring teeth to the jawbone, he added.
As well as anchoring teeth, the periodontal ligaments act as shock absorbers during chewing. Metal implants are fixed to the bone and do not have shock absorbers, which can damage the jawbone over time, he said. The study, published in the Journal of Dental Research, is the first demonstration of a tooth grown using human and mouse cells. - The Independent