Biological Tooth Replacement One Step Closer

Recent research headed by Professor Paul Sharpe, an expert in craniofacial development and stem cell biology at King’s College London, has led scientists one step closer to replacing missing teeth with bioengineered material generated from gum cells.

In the study, adult human gum tissue from patients at the Dental Institute at King’s College London Sharpe was isolated by Sharpe and his team of researchers.  The team of scientists grew more of the gum tissue in their lab and then combined the tissue with the cells of mice that form teeth. They then transplanted this substance into mice and were able to grow hybrid human/mouse teeth that not only contained dentine and enamel, but viable roots, as well.

Before Professor Sharpe’s study, research aimed at producing bioengineered teeth has mainly focused on the generation of immature teeth that can be transplanted into an adult jaw to develop into functional teeth.  Although studies have shown these immature teeth, or embryonic teeth primordia as they are known, can develop normally in the human mouth, such sources are impractical in a general therapy.

Professor Sharpe stated, “What is required is the identification of adult sources of human epithelial and mesenchymal cells that can be obtained in sufficient number to make biotooth formation a viable alternative to dental implants.”

Although replacing missing teeth with bioengineered material generated from gum cells is years away from being a clinical reality, Shape and his team feel it will some day be a viable solution to current implant-based methods of whole tooth replacement, as whole tooth implants fail to reproduce a natural root structure, and thus, loss of jaw bone around the implant can then occur because of the friction of eating and other jaw movement. 

Original article found here.