Replacement "bioteeth" from stem cells a step closer


March 18, 2013

New research may result in bio-engineered replacement teeth which are generated from a person’s own gum cells (Photo: Shutterstock)

New research may result in bio-engineered replacement teeth which are generated from a person’s own gum cells (Photo: Shutterstock)

New research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre and King's College London, UK, may result in bio-engineered replacement teeth which are generated from a person’s own gum cells. Though artificial whole-tooth implants are currently available to people who are missing a tooth, such implants are unable to fully reproduce the natural root structure of a tooth. This means that in time, friction caused by eating and other movement of the jaw can result in a loss of jaw bone.

Previous research toward producing bio-engineered teeth (or “bioteeth”) has focused on the growing of new teeth by using embryonic cells inserted into an adult jaw as “pellets.” Despite the marked difference in environment, such immature teeth (teeth primordia) can develop into normal adult teeth given the right conditions. However, embryonic cells are typically considered unappealing for widespread use, so what’s really needed is a an adult source of tooth cells.

"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,” explained Professor Sharpe, an expert in craniofacial development and stem cell biology at King’s College London’s Dental Institute, who led the research.

To this end, the new research isolated adult human gum tissue from patients at King’s College London’s Dental Institute, then combined the gum tissue with the embryonic cells which are responsible for forming teeth in mice. Transplanting this combination of cells into test-mice resulted in the culture of hybrid human and mouse teeth which contained dentine and enamel, in addition to viable roots.

The work is still in its infancy, and the next step for the scientists is to create the teeth without the need for mouse cells.

The research was recently published in the Journal of Dental Research.

Source: King’s College London

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

Sometimes I think these scientists drag out these types of research so that they have never ending grant funds and job security. God forbid that their research ever really bare fruit for those with no teeth, or failing organs. Rarely do we see articles that say the research is now in human trials or that within the year you will be able to have this done by your doc or dentist. It's always the mice that get to have their hair regrown or to have nice new teeth, livers, kidneys, and hearts.


X2 You would think by now they could turn on and off the genes to grow new teeth, but just like 100+mpg cars there is too much money that would be loss if such a process came about.

Leonard Foster

Ah the irony....the British are leading the way in research on teeth.

Joseph Boe

Another idea that will take decades before people can actually benefit from it. For starters, how do they tell the 'seeds' that the bitey teeth go at the front and the chewy teeth down the sides? Or can they separate and select at the petrie dish stage? A random mixture would be miles worse than the false teeth they are trying to replace.

The Skud

Brilliant! The Dental Industry can, over the years, drill the enamel off your teeth so they rot and have to be extracted, then they grow you new ones. This idea will keep people in jobs - ruining teeth.


@Thunderbird4: The dental industry doesn't need to damage teeth to keep growing new ones. People do that all by themselves. Drinking acidic, sugary beverages, getting tongue rings, not cleaning nooks and crannies properly, failing to consume enough calcium… then there is normal wear and tear. All this adds up to more than enough work for dentists without their having to practice anything nefarious.


"never ending grant funds".. Haha, that's like admonishing people betting on the horses at the racetrack>> "They have it so easy...just put down a few bets a day, and live on $100k a year in winnings."

Grants are incredibly hard to get. The competition is fearsome. The reward rate is typically less than 10% of the applications, which doesn't even count the disqualifications for failure to meet the guidelines. When you hear about a successfully-funded grant project, it like hearing about a winner in the state-run lottery: Yes, someone always wins, but that doesn't mean that playing the lottery is a viable method of generating monthly income.

Scott in California

Are ANY of the things written about in these articles EVER coming to market? I read about this 2 years ago.

Sean Stout

They've been saying for 10 or 15 years that they'd be able to generate replacement teeth from stem cells. I can't understand why this is such a slow process, when tech advances in other areas are happening fast.

Judy Pokras

Hockey players and people with no dental plans should be the first recipients. Dentistry is still, relatively, in the dark ages despite composite fillings and enamel strengtheners. Dental offices are like body shops, with the somewhat nauseating smell of cloves and ground tooth standing in for two-part body-filler and paint.


Yes I agree with the comments on the delays and remember though most of the worlds general public have no idea of these research and how they could benefit else they would be puhing more for results!

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