Urine-derived stem cells could one day allow people to re-grow lost teeth, scientists say.
Chinese scientists used stem cells from urine to create tiny “tooth germs” that, when transplanted into mice, grew into tooth-like structures.
Stem cells, meaning cells that can turn into any type of tissue, are popular with researchers who are looking for ways to grow new teeth to replace those lost due to age or lack of dental hygiene.
A team of scientists from the Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health used urine as the starting point for the study.
These cells are collected in a laboratory and then turned into stem cells. In the study, they were combined with other mouse body material and transplanted into animals.
The researchers say that after just three weeks, the group of cells began to resemble a tooth: “The tooth-like structure contained a pulp, dentin, an enamel coating, and an enamel organ.”
However, the “teeth” were not as hard as natural ones.
The study won’t immediately open up new opportunities for dentists, of course, but scientists say it could spur further research into “complete regeneration of human teeth for clinical therapy.”
However, experts warn that many difficulties must be overcome in order to achieve the goal. Professor Chris Mason, a stem cell researcher at University College London, said urine was not the best starting point for testing.
“Urine appears to be one of the worst sources, as it contains very few cells that are very difficult to turn into stem cells. You just won’t do it that way,” he assures.
He also warned that the risk of infection, for example due to bacteria, is much higher than with other cell sources.
The study was published in the Cell Regeneration Journal.