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Biotech Science

Fully Functional Bioengineered Tooth Grown In a Mouse 264

Posted by kdawson
from the tooth-the-whole-tooth dept.
A couple of weeks back the Wall Street Journal reported on the first organ grown in vivo from stem cells — a tooth in the mouth of a mouse. Reader cdrpsab spotted the news on the MedGadget blog; the research had been reported earlier in the PNAS. From the WSJ: "The researchers at the Tokyo University of Science created a set of cells that contained genetic instructions to build a tooth, and then implanted this 'tooth germ' into the mouse's empty tooth socket. The tooth grew out of the socket and through the gums, as a natural tooth would. Once the engineered tooth matured, after 11 weeks, it had a similar shape, hardness and response to pain or stress as a natural tooth, and worked equally well for chewing. The researchers suggested that using similar techniques in humans could restore function to patients with organ failure."
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Fully Functional Bioengineered Tooth Grown In a Mouse

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  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Monday August 24, 2009 @04:09AM (#29170661) Journal

    Of course, we all grow teeth at the beginning of our lives, but this friend of mine grew a new tooth when he was in his thirties. He had an extraction, and about two years later, a new one came in. He wasn't one of those people who start out with three ranks of teeth (that's pretty rare too, but not quite as rare a growing a new one as an adult. I think his case got written up in some dental journal.

    -jcr

  • Functional? Is this solution recursive?
    • As somebody noted above, it is. However, it may be not exactly the kind of recursivity you might find useful.
  • by Toonol (1057698) on Monday August 24, 2009 @04:31AM (#29170781)
    The researchers suggested that using similar techniques in humans could restore function to patients with organ failure."

    The submitter got me, I have to admit. I was reading the summary, thinking that it would end with "could allow humans to regrow teeth"... but they pulled a zigzag, and went a different direction. Organs. Wow. Did M. Knight Shamalyan write this summary?
    • Re:Strange Leap (Score:5, Informative)

      by alannon (54117) on Monday August 24, 2009 @04:44AM (#29170841)
      Honestly, I don't think that calling a tooth an organ is very much of a stretch. Teeth have their own blood vessels and nerves, and consist of a large proportion of living tissue. This [answers.com] little blurb provides what I think is a convincing, if hardly exhaustive, argument that teeth are organs.
      • I don't think that calling a tooth an organ is very much of a stretch.

        Especially considering that bones are organs, and teeth and bone are very similar indeed !
      • Re:Strange Leap (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Richard Kirk (535523) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:00AM (#29171455)

        I can see Toonol's worries here. The ovaries contain single cells that ought to grow into a whole being when fertilized. Sometimes, these go wrong, and you get something else. These other things are usually hair, teeth, or occasionally eyes (eeww!). However, you don't get a fingernail or a kidney or a brain. This is probably because hair, teeth and eyes can be 'seeded' from a single cell, where other organs probably develop from a coordinated modification of a set of cells.

        This is not to say that there isn't come magic genetic 'sudo' command that allows you to ask for a left kidney, medium size, but we haven't seen any sign of it yet.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by d3ac0n (715594)

          Perhaps we can't "seed" a more complex organ such as a kidney, (Although I thought that eyes were pretty damn complex organs, what with the lenses and rods and cones and such.) but perhaps through study we can come to understand the more complex interactions of genomes that creates a kidney or a liver and one day grow replacement parts without the ghoulish proposition of cloned complete human "parts farms".

          Of course, we all know that most of the research is going to end up in the breast augmentation and hai

          • by fifedrum (611338)

            don't underestimate the power of human desire for longevity. If it's possible, and people will pay for it, there certainly will be human parts farms consisting of whole bodies from which owners draw spares. Just give it some time.

            Wasn't there a movie about this?

            Anyway, yes, it'll happen. The only catch is the brain, if you can grow the bodies without one, there won't even be objections to having such a factory in your neighborhood. Imagine all the automobile plants converted to organ farms.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by PainKilleR-CE (597083)

          In the short term, I'll be happy with teeth. Maybe when I'm older and have to worry about kidney failure or heart failure, I'll want them to have progressed to the point where they can simply grow a new one for me, but for now I'd like to see the ability for them to pull a rotten tooth out of my head and inject a few cells into the gum to regrow a tooth a few years from now rather than have to put in a bridge or some other garbage like they would now.

          My wife's had problems with her teeth from a very young a

    • Re:Strange Leap (Score:4, Interesting)

      by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Monday August 24, 2009 @05:12AM (#29170983) Homepage

      The problem with growing organs is that in order to get cells to multiply you have to disable certain genes in those cells, or at least reset their counters. Which genes ? Well those that guard against cancer ...

      Our bodies go to great lengths to prevent cells from multiplying anywhere and it is only allowed by the human DNA in very specific cases : blood production in the bone marrow, when a woman becomes pregnant, and just before a woman gives birth. There are others, but those are major modifications of human cell's normal reproduction. The body goes to great lengths to prevent cell division in organs once a human being is born, instead choosing to do the bulk of the necessary divisions before birth and then letting those already-existing cells enlarge instead of divide to make a child grow. That's not to say there is no cell division involved in growing a child, but a lot less than you'd think from the size difference.

      All 3 of those exceptions are also major causes of cancer : leukemia, endometrial cancer and breast cancer.

      Getting stuff to grow is easy, just kill of the p70 gene. Getting stuff to grow safely is hard. Very very hard. Loads of research still need to be done before this can really be risked in a live human being.

      • Re:Strange Leap (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cnettel (836611) on Monday August 24, 2009 @05:38AM (#29171093)
        Solid. References. Now. (For the statement that a majority of growth to maturity just involves enlarging existing cells.) BTW, have you ever heard of osteoblasts and osteoclasts? Those cells are actively renewed and renewing bone throughout life, although they decline with age. You are certainly right that extremely rapid and "deep" division is limited in most organs, as you only need a few divisions and the wonderful gift of exponential growth to get just about any number of cells. The problem of organ regeneration is of course that the respecialization requires a number of "cell generations" in itself. There are some risks involved here, but the current techniques are not simply hardwiring the "on" mode for cell division. In fact, to get any real organ you need the natural "stop" modes and directed apoptosis just as much as you need the ability to start cell division in the first place.
      • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Monday August 24, 2009 @05:56AM (#29171163) Homepage Journal
        My ex was a biologist, and told me that the way the healing of wounds is implemented is that cells multiply when there aren't other cells next to them. If there is a hole, then the cells will divide to fill in the gap, with the signal to stop occuring when the dividing cells finally close up the hole. The problem is that that signal to stop gets screwed up somehow sometimes - either it's not produced, or its ignored. There is only a small probability of this happening, but if you are repeatedly wounded, then the probability increases. Some people have a habit of biting the insides of their cheeks. I understand that doing so can cause cancers where you bite.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by blahplusplus (757119)

        "Which genes ? Well those that guard against cancer ..."

        Which brings up an interesting point... Since our lives depend critically on the controlled death (apoptosis) of cells. A lot of people don't fully grasp that controlled death of cells is absolutely critical to maintaining limb, bodily form, and organ integrity (eyes, hands, creating fingers)

        You can see what happens here when when apoptosis goes wrong:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Celldeath.jpg [wikipedia.org]

        Thank goodness for controlled cell death.

        • I had to look at that image twice, my brain made it look like a normal foot the first time.

          I'm not sure if I'd even call that webbed, at least tell me they could speak to fish.
        • by Emb3rz (1210286)

          Thank goodness for controlled cell death.

          When will this egregious practice of planned cell abortion finally be ended?! Cells are living things too!

          Disclaimer: while the above is definitely a joke, I firmly oppose abortion; doing so on the ground of ethics and morality based on Bible principles.

      • by fbjon (692006)

        Our bodies go to great lengths to prevent cells from multiplying anywhere and it is only allowed by the human DNA in very specific cases : blood production in the bone marrow, when a woman becomes pregnant, and just before a woman gives birth.

        W. T. F.

        Tell that to the numerous wounds I have received over the years, which no longer exist as if by magic.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by 228e2 (934443)

        The problem with growing organs is that in order to get cells to multiply you have to disable certain genes in those cells, or at least reset their counters ....

        thats only 1 line of code that needs to be added . . . this shouldnt be too hard ;)

      • The problem with growing organs is that in order to get cells to multiply you have to disable certain genes in those cells, or at least reset their counters. Which genes ? Well those that guard against cancer ...

        OTH cancer can often be treated with surgery to the point where the body can't do without the lost tissue. If the tissue can be regrown the surgery may not be such a bad idea. Maybe we have to prune our bodies like trees.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Andvari (685645)

        Getting stuff to grow is easy, just kill of the p70 gene. Getting stuff to grow safely is hard. Very very hard. Loads of research still need to be done before this can really be risked in a live human being.

        would you care to give a reference for p70 being used to create iPS (induced pluripotency)? As far as I am aware the genes typically used are oct-4, sox2, c-myc, nanog, lin28, klf4 and p53 (both p53 and c-myc are oncogenes, the rest are not) Interestingly a paper was published a few months ago which describes a method for transient expression of these genes. This eliminates (or at least greatly reduces) the risk of cancer arising from stem cell treatment as the expression of any oncogenes is only long en

    • by moon3 (1530265)
      Well there is a video on Youtube where they grow a hearth muscle that starts beating spontaneously, amazing and shocking stuff. So I am not surprised here, good piece of news to read about in the morning anyway.
    • by mark-t (151149)
      I kinda felt the same way after reading the summary...while there are a handful of organs that humans could do without while they wait for a brand new one to grow in an empty space inside their body, by far the most useful applications for regrowing organs are those for which this would simply be impossible to do in anybody who has already left the womb: heart, liver, stomach, brain, etc. So call me a bit of a cynic, but I'm really not seeing as much hype as what is suggested by the submitter.

      Of cour

  • How about restoring functions to ... teeth?

    You don't need to be suffering from periodontal disease to know that missing or otherwise bad teeth are real enough issues for ordinary people. With the possible exception of friends from across the pond, of course. ;-)

    • I suspect that that is on the docket as well, once the kinks are worked out; but it has a rather different risk/reward ratio.

      Implanting fake teeth isn't a terribly fun procedure, nor are fake teeth perfect; but our ability to replace teeth with synthetic equivalents is a hell of a lot better than our ability to replace most any other organ with synthetic equivalents(and, even if we don't bother, a missing tooth will kill you a lot more slowly than most other missing organs). For organs where synthetic re
      • I suspect that that is on the docket as well, once the kinks are worked out; but it has a rather different risk/reward ratio.

        But that's the part that I don't get. The article(s) as written make no mention of the value of growing teeth but instead talk about organ transplants.

        As for the risk/reward ratio, isn't it the case, for example, that big pharma prefers to invest heavily in both R&D and advertising for drugs that are geared to ordinary problems for ordinary people rather than complex diseases? T

        • I don't know why the article was written as it was, whether it accurately reflects the focus of the research, or is just the drivel that so often passes for science journalism.

          My point was just that, with a new technique, particularly one using stem cells and stimulating cell growth, there might well be risks. Possibly nothing, possibly just a tendency to form benign tumors that have to be removed, possibly full blown cancer, possibly other stuff. For some organs, "Well, we can grow you a new one; but yo
  • It's a scam (Score:4, Funny)

    by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Monday August 24, 2009 @04:36AM (#29170807)
    This is nothing but a scam to rip off the tooth fairy. Shame on you, science.
    • by adamchou (993073)
      On the contrary, this will allow us to extract teeth and have new ones grown in, thereby providing the tooth fairy with an abundant supply of teeth. However beneficial this may be to the tooth fairy, it is actually detrimental to us. With the recession the way it is, countless families will resort to extracting their teeth to provide supplemental income from the quarters the tooth fairy leaves. Obviously, this will lead to a surge in the money supply and a subsequent devaluation of the dollar. This has bad
      • You are assuming that the stem-cell induced new tooth costs less than 25 cents to grow...
  • Human Pancreas? (Score:5, Informative)

    by JakartaDean (834076) on Monday August 24, 2009 @04:36AM (#29170809) Journal
    Mr. Scientist, if you happen to get around to doing something like this for a human pancreas, could I order one please? Blood type B+, if it's not too much trouble. DNA available on request.

    Yours sincerely,

    Dean, on behalf of millions of Type I diabetics

    P.S. I *love* hearing about this stuff. The potential for helping millions is incredible.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      If you are type 1 then your immune system would destroy any pancreatic islet cells implanted. Type 2 diabetics who are insulin resistant with a burnt out pancreas would be choicer targets for this type of therapy. Type 1 diabetics will be waiting for an immunological solution first.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by plastbox (1577037)

        As a Type 1 diabetic myself it really makes my day when something new and cool like this pops up on my screen. I vaguely remember some doctor-or-some-such saying a few years back that diabetes is a disease that should have been cured (or at least fixable) 30 years ago. If not for the fact that medical companies have an income from insulin, needles, and other paraphernalia as stable as WoW subscriptions and probably a goodly bit bigger, it probably would have. Though I am pleased to see there have been actua

        • by Cyberax (705495)

          Fix 1: we don't yet know reliable and safe ways to transplant genes using viruses.

          Fix 2: way worse than the disease for most of people.

          A much more sane variant of Fix 2 is transplantation of islet cells, grown from patient's own stem cells. I'm sure one day it'll be there.

        • http://www.novocell.com/tech/encapsulation.html [novocell.com]

          Those guys are using cell encapsulation as a way to hide islet cells from the immune system, it is showing very promising results. Of course a decent supply of transplant material is still a problem.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by plastbox (1577037)

            Note that the text hasn't been updated since ~2005 and their initial human trial was, according to them, a success. To a diabetic, a staggering, mindblowing success! Apparently, the islets were injected subcutaneously whereupon they went on to regulate the test subjects blood glucose levels for up to 20 months, without long term immunosuppression! Why am I not receiving this treatment right now? Can I sue the Norwegian government for attempted murder? =(

            Yes, yes, availability of spare parts etc. Screw tha

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smellsofbikes (890263)
          Since I don't see responses saying the sort of things I'd say, I'll go ahead and say what I was going to say.

          Retroviral treatment sometimes works. The problem is we don't have any way of telling where to put the genes we're inserting, and if they insert in the wrong place, the cell could do nasty things: become cancerous, start pumping out odd hormones, start pumping out herpesvirus, are a few that come to mind. It can be done, and has been done, but it's not easy.

          Replacement of the entire auto-immune

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Kryis (947024)
        Different people have different "strengths" of immune reaction. I've been diagnosed T1 diabetic for over a year now (and had symptoms for quite a while before I was diagnosed), and I am either incredibly sensitive to injected insulin, or my body hasn't quite managed to totally kill of my pancreas yet. Some people go from perfectly healthy to a coma in a matter of weeks, others like me can last much longer; If it has taken my body this long to destroy my pancreatic islet cells, then maybe a "top up" every ye
      • by cnettel (836611)
        I seem to remember that beta cell transplants have in some cases been reasonably successful, i.e. only battling the normal rejection problems. If you get the autoimmune reaction at one point, you can trigger Type I diabetes. If the reaction is complete enough, the cells in the pancreas will never replenish on their own, while the immune system might reenter a more normalized state, on its own or through immunosuppressive treatment.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by plastbox (1577037)

        I also seem to remember an article about a female professor at a British university who cured rats who's pancreas had been removed. I can't for the life of me find the article, but the process as described consisted of treating the rats with one common drug that kills white blood cells and another drug that had a less-known side effect of somehow making the auto-immune system not produce the beta-cell attacking basta.. *cough* cells.

        This research was done to find a way to prepare a patient for transplant an

    • Re:Human Pancreas? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cyberax (705495) on Monday August 24, 2009 @04:44AM (#29170843)

      Yes, there are islet cell therapies on the horizon: http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/scireport/chapter7.asp [nih.gov]

  • Old News? (Score:2, Informative)

    I seem to recall reading an article many years ago about a trial in the UK in which this same technique was working quite well on humans. Of course I can't seem to track down the article now, and the closest thing I did find was this article [innovations-report.com] from five years ago about a business providing this service. Unfortunately, it only muddies the waters further by including the line "To date, no companies or research groups in the world have been able to demonstrate the formation of a living, natural tooth." Does any
  • I have bad teeth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Monday August 24, 2009 @04:47AM (#29170857) Journal

    They're horrible, and I live in the United States, a culture where teeth are perfect and white or you are nothing. My wife has beautiful teeth, and despite the fact that we have nearly identical brushing and dental care habits, my teeth are horrid, yellow, and falling to pieces, hers are beautiful, white, and basically no cavities.

    Sorry - not all teeth are created equal.

    So here I am, 30-something, fairly affluent, and having horrid teeth. You think I wouldn't hesitate to spend a few Gs replacing my craptastic old teeth with new teeth with zero chance of rejection? Sure, they will go yellow quickly, just like the last ones did, but that means I'm in my 80s or later before my teeth are in any way unusual. And effectively, that means good teeth for life.

    I've been waiting for this kind of treatment. Where do I sign up?

    • I'm pretty sure those whitening kits would be much cheaper.
      • I'm pretty sure those whitening kits would be much cheaper.

        They don't do much to help teeth that are literally crumbling in your mouth (or did you miss the "falling to pieces" bit in the GP?), and they are most definitely not cheaper than the bridge I had to get earlier this year.

        (Had a front tooth broken/knocked out a few years back, and the same accident cracked the teeth on either side of that one.)

    • You sign up with the people who aren't religious zealots, believing that life begins at conception and preventing the use of embrionic stem cells. You might believe that too, but I don't believe anyone with any religious affiliation or indoctrination belongs in Politics.

      Creating stem cells from other tissues is possible, but adds extra costs. We all know how pharmaceutical companies love to throw money away, don't we...

      Seriously, though, this is a lab test. Human trials are so far into the future your kid
      • by TimSSG (1068536)

        You sign up with the people who aren't religious zealots, believing that life begins at conception and preventing the use of embrionic stem cells.

        The above is false if you live in the USA. The embryonic stem cells research was never illegal just denied Government funding in most cases. If you do not live in the USA, what country denied the use of embryonic stem cells research. Tim S.

      • by HanClinto (621615)

        Wait, _what_? This is a really absurdly ignorant non-sequitor.

        Embryonic stem cells have nothing to do with this mouse experiment. These were adult stem cells.

        Take your zealotry and anti-religious pogrom elsewhere -- it doesn't even apply here.

      • Wow... someone who feels the same way about medical science as I do. Butchers indeed, albeit highly skilled butchers - still I second the opinion that other than more advanced tools and drugs, the treatments for injury and natural decay seem really really outdated compared to the other technologies we employ on a daily basis.

        I disagree that this won't be available in our lifetime (we being the 30 somethings, who are having children now). We may be in our 50s before it's a normal procedure but hey that still

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "I've been waiting for this kind of treatment. Where do I sign up?"

      You'll be in your 80s before this is accepted.

      If you follow medical treatment, stuff that comes up is rarely ever implemented, mainly due to patents, laziness, threat of lawsuits, inventors/business wannabe be paid far more than the treatment is worth, FDA regulations, some muppet whines about safety and testing that has nothing to do with safety or testing, etc.

      See the post about someone asking for a new pancreas (really asking for new insu

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by PainKilleR-CE (597083)

        One of the reasons military applications of medical advancements go to market so quickly is that there is a large body of "volunteers" for human trials who have little or no chance of ever successfully suing the makers of the drugs or devices tested on them (and usually don't even know they're part of some sort of test in the first place).

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by R2.0 (532027)

        Look at artificial blood. Artificial blood research has had proven, safe in terms of biocompatibility and toxicity, and reduced the spread of disease, and has been around for 15+ years. Is it commonplace? Hell no.

        Ahh, no. First off, there is no such thing currently as artificial blood. You are referring to oxygen therapeutics, which are substances that carry oxygen. These are NOT ready for prime time, see excerpt from the Wikipedia article below. But besides that, blood is enormously complex, and does a

    • Re:I have bad teeth (Score:4, Interesting)

      by foniksonik (573572) on Monday August 24, 2009 @09:22AM (#29172853) Homepage Journal

      Question. Did you grow up somewhere drinking naturally non-fluoridated water? Did your land have a well rather than a hookup to city / county water supply?

      I also have horrid teeth (not as bad as yours sound but still bad enough) and I grew up without fluoride treatments or fluoridated water - just wondering if there is a correlation at least. Hopefully it is also causation and I can worry less about dental bills for my kids as they grow up (even with replacement teeth, keeping the original teeth in good shape is still cheaper).

      thanks

  • by damburger (981828) on Monday August 24, 2009 @05:52AM (#29171147)

    I wonder if this treatment will be available through NHS dentists once it is perfected.

    ROFLMFAO I crack myself up sometimes.

    • Good point. This, like dental implants, is destined to be a high end treatment for the wealthy. Po' folks will have to do with dentures.

  • Tags (Score:3, Informative)

    by consonant (896763) <shrikant@n.gmail@com> on Monday August 24, 2009 @06:13AM (#29171219) Homepage

    smokeemifyagotem

    Smoke 'em if ya got 'em.

    Toughest tag to parse, EVAR!

  • has just replaced the whale in my nightmares.
  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Monday August 24, 2009 @06:17AM (#29171241)

    Well, not entirely, but seriously - they've come up with a way to grow new teeth for mammals.

    Personally, I would love it if I could go to the dentist and have him replace some of my bad teeth with new ones. One or two at a time would be fine.

    Instead of getting fake teeth or fillings when you've abused your teeth to the point where the enamel on the outside of the tooth has worn away, exposing the dentine ... if I could get those replaced? I'd almost be willing to kill for that.

    Sure, it'd take time to regrow a new tooth, but I could live with that.

    So yeah, screw growing new organs - get me some new teeth!

    • Instead of getting fake teeth or fillings when you've abused your teeth to the point where the enamel on the outside of the tooth has worn away, exposing the dentine ... if I could get those replaced?

      My dentist has all sorts of new tech in his office. Digital X-ray, a 3D rapid prototyping machine for making crowns, and a digital camera wand for taking pictures of the teeth. He showed me my tooth after I had lost a filling. It was three quarters gone. Lost enamel indeed. Pfft! Child's play.

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