Current implant methods to replace missing teeth mean that there is no natural root structure in the gum. As a consequence of the friction from eating and other jaw movement, loss of jaw bone can occur around the implant. Bioengineered teeth, or bioteeth, would mean a whole new tooth, complete with a root structure, grows from cells transplanted into a person’s gum.
The new research is being led by Professor Paul Sharpe, an expert in craniofacial development and stem cell biology at King’s College London’s Dental Institute. His team have been building on the bioteeth research done so far, which has focused on generating immature teeth that could then be transplanted into an adult jaw to develop into fully functional teeth. However, the cells used to form the immature teeth were sourced from embryos – thereby meaning the method cannot be widely used. The challenge in developing bioteeth that grow from a human jaw is finding adult sources of both human gum cells and human cells that are able to produce teeth.
Professor Sharpe and his team are half-way there. They took human gum tissue from patients at the Dental Institute at King’s College London, grew more of it in the lab, and then combined it with tooth-forming cells from mice. By transplanting this combination of cells into mice the researchers were able to grow hybrid human/mouse teeth containing dentine and enamel, as well as viable roots.
The next challenge in the development of bioteeth is to find a source of adult human tooth-forming cells that can be combined with human gum cells. If successful, it will revolutionise tooth replacement methods.
For more information read the original study.
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