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Tooth Bud From Stem Cells Looms Large

Implanted tooth buds created from stem cells may replace false teeth. Paul Sharpe, who specializes in the field of regenerative dentistry at King's College, London, believes that this procedure, which has been shown to work in mice, will work in humans as well.

Stem cells taken from the patient are used, which takes care of the possibility of tissue rejection. Stem cells are unique in their ability to grow into any of the cell types in the body. Under laboratory conditions, the stem cells are stimulated to grow into a tooth. After a few weeks, the cells have multiplied into a small group called a "bud." The tooth bud can be inserted into the gum, where it takes resources from the body to grow into a full-sized tooth, stimulating the growth of nerves and blood vessels so it is fully integrated into the body.

Tooth buds are an ordinary part of human growth and development; teeth have three stages of growth - bud, cap and bell. In the developing fetus, patches of epithelial cells (skin cells of the mouth) form tooth buds. Over time, the structures of the tooth form (dentin, cementum and pulp). Deposits of calcium and mineral salts harden the tissue; layers of enamel form from the top of the crown down to the roots. Finally, the tooth errupts from the gum line (from Tooth Bud).

Science fiction fans may recall the cosmetic toothbud transplants from William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer; why be satisfied with ordinary human-type teeth? In an earlier reference, one of the characters in Samuel R. Delany's 1968 Nebula Award-winning novel Babel-17 had walrus-sized incisors.

From Grow-your-own to replace false teeth via How Stuff Works.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/6/2004)

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