Scientists Bioengineer Teeth from Gum Cells

If you have missing teeth that you are looking to replace with dental implants, you may soon be able to replace them with new teeth developed from your own gum cells. Professor Paul Sharpe of King’s College London led the research in bioengineered teeth that was published in the Journal of Dental Research. In the report, Professor Sharpe and his colleagues explain how they have developed a new method to bioengineer new teeth with embryonic teeth cells. This advancement can be beneficial for those needing dental implants as the current method replaces teeth with unnatural substitutes that lack a root structure, which causes friction against the jaw bone around the implant.

Current Methods

So far, the research of bioengineered teeth has centered on the use of immature teeth, or teeth primordia that mimic the teeth found in the embryo. The cell pellets from the teeth primordia can be transplanted directly into an adult jaw and grow into immature teeth. Though it is unlikely that immature teeth would be bioengineered for clinical purposes, the ability to develop immature teeth from the right cells makes it quite possible that the same can be done to develop adult teeth. According to Professor Sharpe, “What is required is the identification of adult sources of human epithelial and mesenchymal cells that can be obtained in sufficient numbers to make biotooth formation a viable alternative to dental implants.”

New Methods

In this study, the researchers extracted adult gum tissues from patients of the Dental Institute at King’s College London, isolated and grew more of the tissue, and combined it with tooth forming cells from mice. The mice then grew hybrid human/mouse teeth that developed a root structure. These findings led Professor Sharpe to conclude that “Epithelial cells derived from adult human gum tissue are capable of responding to tooth inducing signals from mesenchyme in an appropriate way to contribute to tooth crown and root formation.” This experiment is proof that adult teeth can be bioengineered with tooth inducing cells, yet there is one challenge that must be overcome before adult human teeth can be bioengineered for dental implants. Professor Sharpe explains that the next challenge “is to identify a way to culture adult human mesenchymal cells to be tooth-inducing.”

King\’s College London. “New Method Developed To Replace Missing Teeth With A Bioengineered Material Generated From A Person’s Own Gum Cells.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 12 Mar. 2013. Web.
2 Apr. 2013.