U.S. doctors have managed to grow pig teeth in rat intestines, a feat of bioengineering they said could spark a dental revolution.
Researchers at the Forsyth Institute said their successful experiment suggests the existence of dental stem cells, which could one day allow a person to replace a lost or missing tooth with an identical tooth grown from his or her own cells.
The research may signal that the days of synthetic dental implants — dentures, bridges and crowns — are numbered.
“The ability to identify, isolate and propagate dental stem cells to use in biological replacement tooth therapy has the potential to revolutionize dentistry,” Dominick DePaola, president and CEO of the Boston-based research institute, said on Thursday.
The experiment involved taking seeded cells from immature teeth of six-month-old pigs and then placing them within the intestines of rats.
Within 30 weeks, small recognizable tooth crowns — containing enamel and dentin, a bone-like material found under the enamel — had formed, the researchers said.
The researchers said they hope that within five years they will have developed techniques to grow teeth of a specific size and shape, and that within 10 years it will be possible to regenerate human teeth.
The research was due to be published in the Oct 1 issue of Journal of Dental Research.