The Loh Down On Science

Can we use mouse teeth to make new human teeth?

Volponi and others, J Dent Res, 2013

Figure 2. MicroCT analysis of tissues after development. (A) Hard-tissue formation is evident, and 3D reconstructions show obvious multiple tooth-like structures. (B) The teeth show typical tooth appearance, with well-developed crowns and roots. (C) Higher density mineralization can be observed in the coronal part of the tooth-like structure (marked in pink), corresponding to tooth crown enamel. (D) A “slice” CT scan image of a higher mineralized region visible with higher density, while a lower density mineralization corresponding to dentin area is elongated beyond the coronal part (as root area), forming a chamber (dental pulp chamber).

Forget false teeth or implants. How about growing your own!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Researchers at King’s College London are looking for better options to replace missing or damaged teeth.

Implants are the most common solution. But they don’t produce a natural root, so the surrounding jawbone can wear away. 

Paul Sharpe and colleagues are working to generate immature teeth like those in embryos. They’re called bioteeth and they're made of bioengineered materials from a person's own gum cells.

The idea? To transplant these baby teeth into the adult jaw, to develop into functioning teeth.  

To do this, the team isolated cells from adult human gum tissues. Then they combined them with embryonic tooth-forming cells from mice.

When they transplanted that combo into mice? A real tooth grew! Complete with dentine, enamel, and viable roots. The stuff of human teeth!  

The next step is to do the same thing without any input from mice, thank you.

But we’ll still smile and Say Cheese.  Mice or no mice.

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Thursday, from 2-3 p.m. on the LDOS blog: Sandra chats with author Nathanael Johnson about his book All Natural.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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