Adult Mouse Gets a New Tooth, Grown From Embryonic Cells

By Allison Bond | August 4, 2009 1:35 pm

toothIn a discovery that could be good news for denture users, scientists have grown teeth in adult mice using cells taken from a mouse embryo, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The method could pave the way towards the regeneration not just of teeth, but also human organs like livers and kidneys.

Scientists took tissue known as “tooth germ” from a mouse embryo and separated out two types of cells, which they recombined into a new bioengineered tooth germ. That tissue was then implanted into tooth sockets in the mouths of laboratory mice. After 37 days each clump of cells, which originally measured 500 micrometers, or 0.02 inches, had grown into a tooth visibly sprouting from the jawbones of the mice. The researchers also tracked gene expression in the engineered tooth “germ” with a fluorescent protein. This revealed that genes that were normally activated in tooth development were also active during growth of the engineered replacement [BBC News]. The implantation of the tooth “germ” was made possible by a method developed by the same team of scientists in 2007, which allowed them to grow immature teeth inside of the stomachs of embryonic mice.

The lab mice were able to use the implanted teeth to nibble away just as they would any other choppers. The researchers also found that the new teeth grew in with nerve fibers, allowing the mice to sense pain on the tooth, and that they also were as durable as the mice’s original teeth. “The hardness of the enamel and dentin [the second layer of bone] of the bioengineered tooth was equivalent to those of a natural adult tooth” [Reuters], said the study’s authors. The study marks the creation of the first bioengineered tooth that performs the same functions as those that grow naturally.

Scientists hope the technology could one day be used to generate other organs such as livers and kidneys, but caution that these developments could be far away. “Each organ is different, so it may take a long time before we can actually use this system in a clinic” [National Geographic News], says stem cell expert Yasuhiro Ikeda.

Related Content:
80beats: Injecting Special Protein Could Make Hearts Heal Themselves
80beats: Stem Cells May Eventually Replace Needles for Some Diabetics
80beats: Study Shows Stem Cell Infusions Are the 1st Therapy to Reverse MS

Image courtesy of Takashi Tsuji / Tokyo University of Science / Organ Technologies Inc.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World
  • http://drvitelli.typepad.com Romeo Vitelli

    Teething was no fun the first time around. I doubt it gets any easier as we get older

  • The Bishop Sswine

    I suppose it will eventually lead to adult teeth being replacable which has to be good news. On the other hand if we looked after our teeth properly we would be able to die with our god given 2nd set still in place.

  • ME

    yes, if we figure out how to take care of our teeth better we might be able to keep them. However, if we get more traditional with our problem, we might just be living too long for our teeth to remain. Let’s not forget that the reason wisdom teeth are such a modern problem is that we don’t lose enough teeth throughout our lives to make them useful, leading to crowding and pain.

  • MB

    So I’m really curious as to where the scientists got the initial “tooth germ” cells from. If it was from a different mouse embryo, then wouldn’t the new mouse reject the foreign tooth tissue?

  • Angela

    When can I sign my toothless 73 year old father up for this? ;-) He grew up in a very poor farming family, in an area where the Great Depression did not end until approximately 1960. So there was no money for dentists for him or his 10 other siblings (lots of kids = lots of labor on a farm). He hates dentures, which has negatively impacted his diet and nutrition to a moderate extent. While I had the advantages of a dentist, anti-cavity toothpaste, floss, etc, I still have pretty crappy teeth that I’m blaming on both of my parents and their families also having crappy teeth (I brush every day, I swear! And floss, though not daily, but who does?) So being able to regenerate adult teeth would be fabulous! And since dad is also diabetic, I hope that this research can also lead to regeneration of the pancreas, kidneys, etc. for the millions in the world who struggle with chronic health problems. Great article!

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