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'Bioteeth' grown from gum stem cells

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Could the latest breakthrough in stem cell research mean that dentures become no more than a memory?

According to the BBC, the days of missing teeth could end -- although perhaps not soon enough for our lifetime.

Researchers from King's College London have managed to combine human gum tissue cells with mouse cells to produce the growth of a new tooth. Epithelial cells were taken from the gums of adult humans and combined with mesenchyme cells from mice -- the kind that can diversify into different cell types -- which then were instructed to grow into a tooth. Once these cells were then implanted back into mice, the researchers' report, documented in the Journal of Dental Research, says that hybrid tooth growth was the result.

These "bioteeth," could be grown by implanting such cells back into the jaw, and in future research projects, if enough human mesenchyme cells are available, a fully human tooth may be the end result. Although human mesenchyme cells can be found in wisdom teeth, sourcing enough proves difficult, as Prof Paul Sharpe commented:

"This advance here is we have identified a cell population you could envisage using in the clinic. We are now working to try and identify a simple way of getting mesenchyme."

The researchers told the publication that while possible, the procedure is currently expensive and is not yet suitable for clinical use.

It's unlikely that we will see this kind of research commercially available for a long time to come, but we can all hope to avoid the necessity of dentures that old age often brings.

(via the BBC)

Image credit: Steve Snodgrass

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— By on March 12, 2013, 3:08 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure