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Growing Teeth in a Lab

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Teeth Grown in a Lab

What if a missing tooth could be replaced with one that’s grown rather than made? Growing teeth in a lab. A research team in England has taken an important step toward the future of bioengineered teeth. The researchers were able to grow the bioteeth in a process that used human adult gum cells. They succeeded in creating natural teeth with characteristics of living ones, including dentin, enamel and roots!

Biological Tooth Replacements

The team’s breakthrough findings were published in the Journal of Dental Research and could move scientists closer to being able to have a biotooth fill the space left by a missing adult tooth. Currently, dental implants replace missing teeth effectively. However, implants come from manmade materials, so they do not generate roots or come with all the qualities of the body’s natural teeth. It is hoped that the replacement bioteeth with roots would help preserve surrounding gum tissue and improve overall functioning.

How the Bioteeth Were Grown

Natural teeth come from our epithelial cells, which make up tissue, and our mesenchyme cells, which have the capability to develop into connective tissue such as cartilage. Scientists took epithelial cells from human gums and cultured them with mesenchyme cells from mice embryos. This blend of cells was then transplanted into mice, and hybrid human-mouse teeth grew. Next, scientists will need to see if teeth can form when adult human mesenchyme cells are used instead of mice cells.

Professor Paul Sharpe of the King’s College London Dental Institute was lead researcher on the project.  According to Sharpe, the study showed how the readily available epithelial gum cells should be considered as a valid resource in human biotooth formation. However, he also confirmed that biologists face a challenge due to the limited availability of adult mesenchyme cells.

Solutions for Today

A “naturally grown” alternative to implants could be an exciting reality for generations to come. If you currently need tooth replacement, be aware that the affordable bioengineered smile is most likely years away. Fortunately, experienced dentists, like Dr. Ginger Price, can help you now with other natural looking and functioning solutions.

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