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Friday, 25 August, 2000, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Mouse teeth grown in lab
Mouse teeth
Five mouse molars grow in a dish
Custom-made human teeth could one day be grown in the laboratory, relegating dentures to a thing of the past.

The predictions follow successful experiments to grow mouse teeth in a laboratory dish.

Scientists believe the technique could benefit humans within a decade.

Ultimately, they hope to be able to trigger the body to re-grow lost or diseased teeth at the place in the mouth where they belong, using gene therapy.

"We think we can make synthetic teeth in a dish and be able to supply an incisor, a premolar or a molar to the clinician for implant," said Dr Mary MacDougall of the University of Texas Health Science Centre, San Antonio.

"The far-stretch of the research is to be able to induce the tissue in the mouth, at the site where the tooth is lost, to make a new tooth," she told BBC News Online.

Tooth regrowth

The first step of the research is to study how mouse teeth grow and develop in the laboratory.

Already, at least 25 different genes have been identified that are involved in this process.

However, growing human teeth in the lab will be more complex than growing mouse teeth.

Smile
Human teeth may be made-to-measure in a decade

To find out more about human tooth development, the US researchers are studying families with a rare genetic disorder that makes them grow too many teeth.

They have also engineered mouse and human cells to make the hard tissues of the teeth, including enamel and dentin.

Dr MacDougall said she believed that it would be about ten years before human teeth could be grown in the lab for use in dental surgery.

Persuading the body to regenerate its own new teeth, by injecting a gene into the gums, is expected to take longer.

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16 Dec 98 | Sci/Tech
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