Current techniques for dental implant replacement fail to reproduce naturalized root structures, causing a loss of bone around the implant. A recent study led by Professor Paul Sharpe, an expert in craniofacial development and stem cell biology, reveals that scientists have discovered a technique called the “Biotooth”, replacing teeth using bioengineered material derived from a person’s own gum cells.
To produce these “bioteeth,” focus has been put on the generation of immature teeth (teeth primordia) that act like those found in the embryo. When their cells are transplanted into the jaw of an adult, the embryonic teeth can develop and produce a tooth, but this practice is not used in general therapy yet. According to Professor Sharpe, to make biotooth formation a viable alternative to dental implants, they must first identify enough human regulatory tissue and cells that are capable of developing into teeth.
At the Dental Institute, King’s College London, researchers took adult human gum tissue from patients and made additional tissue in the lab. They then combined it with the cells of mice teeth to produce hybrid human/mouse teeth containing dentine and enamel. These hybrid teeth are capable of responding to embryonic tooth cells in order to develop tooth crown and root formation, which gives rise to relevant differentiated cell types after laboratory testing. Since developing embryonic cells are the only way to make tooth-inducing cells, the next challenge is to identify a way to culture adult human cells to do the same.
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