Humans have only two sets of teeth, which we must look after if we want them to last. If we break a bone it will quickly start to regrow, but if we lose a tooth it’s gone forever. This leave a staggering 60% of humans without a single tooth by the time they reach the age of 60.
After research into a small fish in Lake Malawi, scientists hope that they might be able to change that. They found that the Cichild fish can grow a new tooth as soon as one drops out, with the help of flexible cells that can turn into either taste buds or teeth. By studying the Cichild’s genetic makeup, they hope to be able to isolate the gene responsible for this incredible feat, which helps them maintain a full set of teeth throughout their adult lives.
If the scientists are able to isolate this gene, they hope that they will then be able to find out which chemicals change cells into teeth in the embryonic fish, and then figure out how to turn on our tooth regrowing mechanism. Scientists now believe that this growing mechanism could be made to last longer than we previously thought.
Could urine hold the key?
Back in 2013, a Chinese study predicted that stem cells found in urine could hold the key to regrowing teeth. They were able to create tooth-like structure in mice using these stem cells, and claimed that it would be possible to bioengineer minuscule tooth buds that could be implanted into human gums to regrow teeth.
This technique is only possible thanks to previous research that found discarded cells in human waste could be turned into pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These cells could be used to not only help tooth regrowth, but also create neurone and heart muscle cells.
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