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Last Updated: Monday, 3 May, 2004, 00:57 GMT 01:57 UK
New teeth 'could soon be grown'
Living teeth are better for gums than false ones
Technology to grow replacement teeth could mean the end of dentures.

Scientists at King's College London have been awarded 500,000 to help them develop human teeth from stem cells.

The company Odontis, set up by the college, hopes to develop its research for tests on humans within two years after successful research on mice.

Stem cells, the so-called master cells, would be programmed to develop into teeth and then transplanted into the patient's jaw where the gap is.

It is thought it would then take two months for the tooth to fully develop.

Healthy gums

But it could be five years before the technology is widely available to the general public.

On average Britons aged over 50 lose around 12 teeth out of 32.

Professor Paul Sharpe is the genetic research scientist behind the technique and head of division of Craniofacial Biology and Biomaterials at the Dental Institute at King's College.

He said: "A key advantage of our technology is that a living tooth can preserve the health of the surrounding tissues much better than artificial prosthesis.

"Teeth are living, and they are able to respond to a person's bite.

"They move and in doing so they maintain the health of the surrounding gums and teeth."

The cost should not be more than the price of synthetic implants of between 1,500 - 2,000.

His project has been awarded 300,000 from the Wellcome Trust, 100,000 from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) and 100,000 from a business sponsor.

A spokesman for the British Dental Association (BDA) said: "The BDA welcomes projects like Odontis and looks forward to seeing further progress in this field."

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