Researchers from Kings College in London have successfully bioengineered teeth from epithelial gum tissue and cells borrowed from mouse embryos. After the mixture of the cells was incubated in culture, it was transplanted to the kidney of a mouse where it developed into a small tooth composed of dentin, enamel, and rests of Malassez. Rests of Malassez are epithelial gingival cells that are part of the ligament that attaches teeth to the bone which is vital when attempting to growth teeth.
The advantage of teeth grown in a lab as opposed to false teeth or implants is the fact that grown teeth are a much better fit. Implants tend to cause friction during eating and jaw action which can lead to bone loss. The grown root is relatively natural and forms a normal root structure with a connection to the bone.
One issue with this new procedure is finding the component micemesenchyme in human form, and in large quantities. The procedure requires adult sources of human epithelial and mesenchymal cells that can be extracted in sufficient numbers to make the “biotooth” a viable option outside of traditional dental implants.
Mesenchymal-epithelial interactions are not only helpful in the production of new teeth. Other research groups are hard at work using these cells to develop eyes, ears, and hair follicles from scratch.
The aim of the research group is to be able to offer this procedure at $1,500 a teeth. Professor Paul Sharpe, who leads the research group, says that it will be at least 5 years before this procedure will become a reality clinically. The research has also hit a snag commercially after investors backed out of the project after hearing such a long timeframe before the concept would come to fruition.
Currently the teeth are being grown from embryonic mice kidneys; Sharpe hopes to eliminate this “middle mouse” by finding a viable source for micemesenchyme.