The Secret Ingredient in Growing Teeth: Urine
Urine is probably one of the last things people would want anywhere near their mouths. For medical professionals and researchers, urine is vital in helping them understand certain health conditions and diseases. In a new study, scientists were able to utilize urine as a base to help grow rudimentary teeth. Now, for people who want to replace damaged or missing teeth, urine might be key in helping them get that perfect smile.
For this study, the research team from the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health in China were able to use urine to help them create stem cells. From a urine sample, the team harvested the cells that passed along with the urine from the body. These cells can be turned into stem cells under laboratory settings. Since stem cells are extremely malleable, the researchers were able to mix stem cells with other materials taken from mice models with the hope of recreating teeth. They implanted the mixture into animal models and within three weeks, the cells started to regrow into something that resembled a tooth.
"The tooth-like structure contained dental pulp, dentin, enamel space and enamel organ," the researchers wrote according to BBC News.
Researcher, Dr. Duanqing Pei from the Chinese Academy of Sciences was able to create tooth-like structures by getting the stem cells to mimic two specific cell types, which were epithelial cells and mesenchymal cells. Epithelial cells help with the production of enamel and mesenchymal cells help create dentin, cementum and pulp. Despite this breakthrough, the researchers noted that the new tooth was not as hard or sturdy as real human teeth.
"The primitive teeth-like organs are structurally and physically similar to human teeth," Dr. Pei said reported by Daily Mail. "But the method has its limitations - it involves mouse cells, has a success rate of around 30 percent and the structures were about one-third of the hardness of human teeth."
The research team believes that their findings could help with future studies looking into using stem cells to recreate teeth. Although the researchers were almost successful in growing a new tooth from stem cells, other stem cell researchers were not impressed.
"It [urine] is probably one of the worst sources, there are very few cells in the first place and the efficiency of turning them into stem cells is very low," a stem cell scientist at the University College London, Professor Chris Mason commented. "You just wouldn't do it in this way."
Mason also stated that the risk of contamination from using urine is much higher than using other sources. The study was published in Cell Regeneration.