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Scientists Bioengineer New Teeth in Mice
Date:8/3/2009

They hope feat will someday lead to organ generation for humans

MONDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers in Japan report that they've grown new teeth in mice with the help of bioengineered tissue, an early sign of progress in the effort to grow new organs in humans.

The research provides "convincing" proof that bioengineered teeth can be fully functional, said Dr. Fei Liu, a researcher at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, who's familiar with the findings of the study.

Liu cautioned that "the general public should be aware that this kind of research is still far from application" in humans. But in the future, he predicted, people will prefer "biological" teeth like those created by the Japanese researchers to porcelain replacement teeth because they will look better and be more functional.

The researchers behind the study wanted to find out what would happen if they took bioengineered tooth "germs" -- tissue that holds the instructions to building a tooth -- and transplanted it into the jawbones of mice.

What happened was that teeth developed from the bioengineered tissue. And the mice had no trouble eating with the new teeth, said Takashi Tsuji, a researcher at the Tokyo University of Science and a co-author of the study. The teeth also developed nerve fibers that could feel pain.

A report on the study appears online in the Aug. 3-7 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Why bother developing technology to regenerate teeth in the first place? Because it could help humans whose teeth are malformed, said Dr. Louis J. Elsas, interim chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

"Tooth regeneration could be useful particularly in infant malformations such as cleft lip and palate, and other malformations involvin
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