Boston, Sept. 27 (Reuters): The tooth fairy may soon have a new line of business.
US doctors said they have managed to grow living pig teeth in rats, a feat of biotechnology that experts said could spark a dental revolution. Researchers at Boston’s Forsyth Institute said their successful experiment suggests the existence of dental stem cells, which could one day allow a person to replace a lost tooth with an identical one grown from his or her own cells.
“The ability to identify, isolate and propagate dental stem cells to use in biological replacement tooth therapy has the potential to revolutionise dentistry,” said Dominick DePaola, president and CEO of the institute that focuses on oral and facial science.
The experiment involved taking cells from immature teeth of 6-month-old pigs, treating them with enzymes and then placing the cell clusters on biodegradable “scaffolds” — tiny bits of polymer designed to act like a mold for the forming tissue.
The researchers implanted the scaffolds into the abdomens of rats and within 30 weeks small recognisable tooth crowns — containing enamel and dentin, a bone-like material found under the enamel — had formed.
The researchers said they hope that within five years they will have developed techniques to grow teeth of a specific size and shape, and that within 10 years it will be possible to regenerate human teeth. Louis Terracio, associate dean for research at New York University’s College of Dentistry, said research signals that the days of synthetic dental implants — dentures, bridges and crowns — are numbered.
”Right now they do wonderful things with implants,” Terracio said after reading the Forsyth research.“Implants work pretty well but it's not a natural tooth.”
Terracio predicted there was no danger of dentists being put out of business if people are able to grow their own substitute teeth, noting that American dentistry has typically been at the forefront of technology.
”The profession will adapt and help people grow teeth,” he said.“This will probably be a boon to oral surgeons who will be doing this sort of surgery.”
The Forsyth Institute's research was due to be published in the Oct. 1 issue of the Journal of Dental Research.