Body’s Own Stem Cells Used To Grow Teeth in Mouth

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Columbia-Grows-Teeth-In-Your-Mouth-Using-Stem-Cells

This scaffold could one day grow a tooth in your mouth using your own stem cells.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center may have found a way to replace missing teeth by having them regrown by stem cells in your mouth. Jeremy Mao, director of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Lab (TERML), used tooth shaped scaffolds augmented with growth factors and proteins to attract stem cells from the body and grow the appropriate bone in place in just 9 weeks. The work was performed in rats using both rat and human-based scaffolds and was reported in the Journal of Dental Research. While still very preliminary, Mao’s results show that we may have the potential to regrow teeth lost to trauma or disease. Chalk up another win for regenerative medicine in the fight to repair long term damage to the human body.
We’ve been talking about using stem cells to grow new organs for years now, but that is typically in the context of the tissue being generated in a lab, such as when Columbia University grew a jawbone. A recent trend towards in vivo studies are newer and very promising. A boy in England had a new trachea grown in his throat using a scaffold and his own stem cells. The in-body approach has some major benefits including quicker integration and cheaper production. TERML’s work stands out not just because it is in vivo, but also because it requires no culturing of stem cells. The mysenchemal cells in the body are attracted to the scaffold site by growth factors and proteins. This means that one day you may be able to pop in a scaffold in your tooth socket and your body will just grow a new tooth onto it.

But we’re still a long way from that day. First and foremost, we should be cautious because TERML’s recent study was in an animal model. Scaffolds for 22 rat incisors and human molars were made from polymers and calcium-based minerals using 3D bio-printing. The incisor scaffolds were placed in the rat’s mouth (after extracting the natural one) while the human molars were surgically inserted into the back. (Animal testing never sounds pleasant, does it?) Even if the same scaffolds were to work perfectly in humans, we’d still be faced with years of human trials and safety evaluations. Secondly, while tooth cells were grown at the interface of the scaffold after 9 weeks, this is far from regenerating an entire tooth. It may take several rounds of engineering to find a way to induce cells to recreate the dentin, pulp, enamel, etc of an adult tooth.

Still, the scaffolds themselves have a lot promise – perhaps even bankable potential. Columbia has pursued a patent on the work, and TechVentures is actively seeking investors. The polymer/mineral structure of the scaffold may be something that could be adopted elsewhere. The growth factor (SDF1) and protein (BMP7) were shown to have significant effect in the attraction of stem cells to the site, so we’re likely to see those applied in other places as well. If the overall scaffold does show success in growing teeth then chances are it could be modified for use in orthopedic endeavors as well.

At first glance, the TERML research may seem very specific, and to some degree it is. Mao and his colleagues are looking for the best way to replace missing teeth. Yet the applications for in vivo generation using stem cells is epic. If the appropriate scaffold and growth factors could be made, you could find ways to regenerate tissue almost anywhere in the body. To some extent we’ve already seen this with ACell and CookBiotech. TERML raises the possibility of regenerating entire complex structures. We may one day be able to regrow a tooth in place, or replace cartilage in a knee, or maybe even heal damage to hearing (by targeting the small inner ear structures). We’re still years from such applications making their way to you, but they no longer seem like science fiction. Eventually the practice of implanting fake teeth, caps, and crowns will seem arcane. If it doesn’t already.

[image credit: Jeremy Mao, Columbia University]
[source: Columbia University Medical Center News, Kim et al JDR, 2010]

Discussion — 30 Responses

  • Singularity Utopia June 3, 2010 on 8:10 am

    In 2004 there were suggestions we would soon be able to regrow teeth:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/may/03/sciencenews.health

    Paul Sharpe via the Dental Institute of King’s College London was working on tooth regeneration in 2004, but no recent news is available from Paul Sharpe. About 3 months ago I sent emails to Paul Sharpe, The Guardian, and The British Dental Association asking for an update regarding the research from 2004 but nobody replied to my emails.

    Considering our teeth naturally regrow once, from milk (baby teeth) teeth to adult teeth, I’ve always found it odd why our bodies don’t simply grow new teeth every 10 or 15 years. Surely it should be easy to make our bodies grow new teeth?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deciduous_teeth

    The Guardian article from 2004 says: “Tests have shown the technique to work in mice, where new teeth took weeks to grow.”

    Tooth regeneration in rodents was achievable in 2004 therefore why do we seem to be at the same stage we were at 6 years ago? Surely tooth regeneration should have progressed more in 6 years?

  • Singularity Utopia June 3, 2010 on 4:10 am

    In 2004 there were suggestions we would soon be able to regrow teeth:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/may/03/sciencenews.health

    Paul Sharpe via the Dental Institute of King’s College London was working on tooth regeneration in 2004, but no recent news is available from Paul Sharpe. About 3 months ago I sent emails to Paul Sharpe, The Guardian, and The British Dental Association asking for an update regarding the research from 2004 but nobody replied to my emails.

    Considering our teeth naturally regrow once, from milk (baby teeth) teeth to adult teeth, I’ve always found it odd why our bodies don’t simply grow new teeth every 10 or 15 years. Surely it should be easy to make our bodies grow new teeth?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deciduous_teeth

    The Guardian article from 2004 says: “Tests have shown the technique to work in mice, where new teeth took weeks to grow.”

    Tooth regeneration in rodents was achievable in 2004 therefore why do we seem to be at the same stage we were at 6 years ago? Surely tooth regeneration should have progressed more in 6 years?

  • Aaron Saenz June 11, 2010 on 3:13 pm

    So there are some major differences between the British and Japanese work and the more recent work done at Columbia. The British/Japanese work required culturing stem cells in the lab (to create the ‘buds’) before implanting them in the mice. Columbia grew tooth tissue in the rats using a scaffold with growth factors to attract the body’s own stem cells. Those scaffolds were specially printed to mimic rat incissors and human molars.
    Beyond those differences, I think Singularity.Utopia has a point. People have been trying to replace human teeth for a while now but we’ve yet to see human trials. What’s the hold up? For Columbia’s work it’s clear that growing an entire tooth is going to take some better engineering, as they’ve only really managed to grow tissue at the scaffold/rat interface. For the British and Japanese work…I don’t know. Perhaps they ran into rejection issues, or other complications. In any case, many thanks to Singularity Utopia and CoryG for pointing out that Columbia’s experiments were far from the first in the field. Sadly it looks like we are still many years from this technology bearing fruit.

  • alan yunker July 28, 2010 on 4:55 am

    I would like to know more about the stemcell teeth growing research and perhaps the potential of volenteering as a test patient.

  • alan yunker July 28, 2010 on 12:55 am

    I would like to know more about the stemcell teeth growing research and perhaps the potential of volenteering as a test patient.

  • Joyce Melat, RDH July 29, 2010 on 8:42 pm

    I have one central incisor broken at the root and two upper cuspids broken at the root. I much prefer stem cell to dental implant. I would love to be a volunteer in stem cell implant
    Thanks,
    Joyce Melat

  • eve m August 13, 2010 on 10:47 pm

    I am extremely interested in this research and would very much be interested in volunteering, I am in my 20’s and lost my teeth to liver disease. I spent the better part of my life on steroids to control inflamation in my liver and shortly after receiving a transplant my teeth began to decay at an alarming rate. I tried taking steps to repair and save my teeth but the more that was done faster they went, until my best option was to remove what was left and get dentures. I would give just about anything to feel real teeth in my mouth again. If anyone knows a way I would be eternally greatfull.
    Thank you,
    Eve McD.

  • eve m August 13, 2010 on 6:47 pm

    I am extremely interested in this research and would very much be interested in volunteering, I am in my 20’s and lost my teeth to liver disease. I spent the better part of my life on steroids to control inflamation in my liver and shortly after receiving a transplant my teeth began to decay at an alarming rate. I tried taking steps to repair and save my teeth but the more that was done faster they went, until my best option was to remove what was left and get dentures. I would give just about anything to feel real teeth in my mouth again. If anyone knows a way I would be eternally greatfull.
    Thank you,
    Eve McD.

  • manjeet kaur August 16, 2010 on 10:21 am

    dear sir,
    Please send me more information regarding stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth(SHED)and microscale technologies for regenerative dentistry

  • manjeet kaur August 16, 2010 on 6:21 am

    dear sir,
    Please send me more information regarding stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth(SHED)and microscale technologies for regenerative dentistry

  • Ruth August 26, 2010 on 1:25 am

    i lost several of my teeth when i was young. we could not afford dental care.now i’m older, i like to have my teeth back. i will pay what i can to participate in this study/trial.

  • Ruth August 25, 2010 on 9:25 pm

    i lost several of my teeth when i was young. we could not afford dental care.now i’m older, i like to have my teeth back. i will pay what i can to participate in this study/trial.

  • Shin Rae August 30, 2010 on 7:21 am

    I was so excited when I red the article. I’d like to know more about this research. I’m also interested in volunteering for the trial. If there any information about this, please let me know.
    Thank you.

  • Shin Rae August 30, 2010 on 3:21 am

    I was so excited when I red the article. I’d like to know more about this research. I’m also interested in volunteering for the trial. If there any information about this, please let me know.
    Thank you.

  • Timmy September 13, 2010 on 1:11 am

    I also interest to put my name for volunteer for this research. please contact me.

  • Ljmt September 25, 2010 on 8:37 pm

    I would love to know how soon this will happen as the demand will be massive…queues around the block, including me. Also interested in volunteering as guinea pig, & investing. This would save so much human suffering ….all over the world…Hallelujah!

  • Anonymous November 2, 2010 on 3:55 am

    I am very interested in volunteering in the trial. This would be a wonderful break through!

  • Tess Malone November 7, 2010 on 5:27 pm

    Awesome, until the dentists and insurance companies bloat the price so ridiculously nobody can afford it anyway unless they own a small country sitting on top of oil.

  • Joseph Sadowski November 27, 2010 on 9:27 am

    Hi there are there any research centers looking for volunteers for the re-growing of teeth with stem cells? If so who and where are they,
    Respectfully
    Joseph

  • Michael Dallas Finch January 16, 2011 on 6:51 am

    This is what i am looking for My ex wife Esther Finch who worked for Western Dental had a coworker scrap my teeth when having a Dental appointment causing dammage then Later about a year or so smile teeth Fresno reset fillings about 2007 went to several Dental areas in San Francisco after being attacked brutally and noone would post teeth that could have been saved now they have broke out and filling on tooth done to back at smile dental are gone causing damaged teeth broken and not fixed i meant it when i said i wanted my teeth fixed not pulled I have went through inexahastable Pain and suffering when they were just hanging in for dear life in sanfrancisco now i am in Citrus Heights trying to get a position with a well known company for teeth to be missing plays with my self confidence and self worth I want stem cell to grow Teeth Michael Dallas Finch

  • Singularity Utopia May 9, 2011 on 5:13 am

    Here is the latest news on this issue: http://news.yahoo.com/s/prweb/20110425/bs_prweb/prweb5258064

    It seems nothing much has actually changed though since 2004, and they continue to state that at some point in the future people will be able to regrow teeth.

  • battleship March 5, 2012 on 12:49 pm

    I wonder if there’s been any movement on this?

    I read somewhere they’ll be conducting clinical trials somewhere around 2015 and plan on implementing this around 2017.

    I wonder Dr. Jeremy Mao would update any progress on his research.

  • D4ce October 1, 2013 on 6:42 am

    Wow this is inpressive!

  • D4ce October 1, 2013 on 6:43 am

    Do you not think so?

  • D4ce October 1, 2013 on 6:44 am

    i love singularityhub!