Professor Paul Sharpe, an expert in craniofacial development and stem cell biology at King’s College London, led a study focused on, “Adult Human Gingival Epithelial Cells as a Source for Whole-tooth Bioengineering,” where scientists developed a new method of replacing missing teeth.
The research, published in the Journal of Dental Research, aimed at reproducing functional teeth as a viable alternative to dental implants.
Current methods of whole-tooth implants fail to reproduce a natural root structure. Over time a loss of jaw bone occurs around an artificial implant because of chewing-related friction.
Using materials from human gums, researchers were able to bioengineer “bioteeth.” These bioteeth, generated from embryonic teeth primordia (tooth buds), were transplanted and managed to develop into functional teeth in mice.
The science is an extension of Sharpe’s 2004 published experiment with stem-cell-based tissue engineering of murine teeth performed in lab mice.
In the previous study, a transfer of recombination epithelial and mesenchymal cells into adult mice resulted in the development of tooth structures and associated bone.
The mesenchyme were derived from bone marrow stem cells from 6-week-old mice and combined with epithelial cells from the mouths of embryonic mice. This cellular amalgamation created artificial tooth primordia.
After three days, the team transferred the engineered primordia into the kidneys of other mice, where it germinated into intact teeth.
In the current but related study, researchers isolated adult human gum tissue from patients at the Dental Institute at King’s College London, and grew more of it in a lab. It was then combined with the cells of mice that form teeth (artificial tooth promordia).
By transplanting this combination of cells into mice the researchers were able to grow hybrid human/mouse teeth containing dentine, enamel, and viable roots.
According to Sharpe, the next major hurdle is to identify a way to culture adequate adult human mesenchymal cells to be tooth-inducing akin to how the mice cells do, as at the moment the experiment can only make embryonic mesenchymal cells.
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