Dentists may one day be able to replace missing teeth with ones newly grown from gum cells, say UK researchers. The team from King's College London took cells from adult human gum tissue and combined them with another type of cell from mice to grow a tooth. They say using a readily available source of cells pushes the technology a step nearer to being available to patients.
But it is still likely to be many years before dentists can use the method. Other work has focused on using embryonic stem cells to create "bioteeth". It proved it could be done but is expensive and impractical for use in the clinic, the researchers said.
In the latest study they took human epithelial cells from the gums of human patients, grew more of them in the lab and mixed them with mesenchyme cells from mice. The mesenchyme cells were cultured to be "inducing" - they instruct the epithelial cells to start growing into a tooth.
Transplanting the cell combination into mice, researchers were able to grow hybrid human/mouse teeth that had viable roots, they reported in the Journal of Dental Research.