Scientists have grown teeth from an unlikely source: human urine.
Tiny teeth-like structures were developed by a team of scientists hoping to use the technique to create full-grown teeth to replace ones that were lost from injury or decay, according to new findings published in Cell Regeneration Journal.
The team of scientists from China’s Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health extracted cells from human urine and “encouraged” them to become stem cells. After blending the cells with bodily material from mice, the scientists harvested them for three weeks in a lab before implanting the structures, which contained pulp, enamel and dentin, into the mice’s mouths.
The technique, which had a success rate of 30 percent, is long ways from going mainstream. Still, researchers are optimistic it could lead to "the final dream of total regeneration of human teeth for clinical therapy".
Not everyone agrees.
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"It 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,” Chris Mason, a stem cell scientist at University College London, told the BBC, about using human urine as a source for creating teeth. "You just wouldn't do it in this way."
Mason added there is an increased risk of contamination when using urine cells compared to other sources. "The big challenge here is the teeth have got a pulp with nerve and blood vessels which have to make sure they integrate to get permanent teeth."
In the U.S., 50 percent of children have had at least one cavity by the time they are 15 years old and a quarter of adults over the age of 65 have lost all of their teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010, roughly $108 billion was spent by Americans on dental services.
If tooth regeneration is possible, this may lead to a world without root canals. Researchers in the U.S., South Korea and the United Kingdom have led similar studies coaxing stem cells to regenerate pulp and implant the structures in animals, including dogs, Fox News reports.
“The whole concept of going for pulp regeneration is that you will try and retain a vital tooth, a tooth that is alive," Tony Smith, a professor in oral biology at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., told Fox News. "I think we are really just at the opening stages of what is going to be a very exciting time, because we're moving away from traditional root-canal treatments."