Teeth: a future renewable natural resource?

Nov 21, 2006

Most vertebrates have continuous tooth generation, meaning that lost teeth are replaced with new teeth. Mammals, however, including humans, have teeth that are generally only replaced once, when milk teeth are replaced with permanent teeth.

Researchers from the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Helsinki and their collaborators from Berlin and Kyoto have now shown that continuous tooth generation can be induced in mammals. The research results were published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (PNAS).

The researchers activated the Wnt signalling pathway in mouse tissue; this signalling pathway is one of those used for cell communication and plays an important role in embryonic development. As a result of stimulating this particular signalling, one mouse molar developed dozens of new teeth with normal dentin, tooth enamel and developing roots. The crowns were, however, simple and cone-shaped, unlike the typically more complex multiple cusps of mouse molars.

The development of the new teeth was studied through tissue culture, and it became clear they were the result of germination from previously developed teeth, just like the teeth of lower vertebrates. The evolutionary trend in mammalian dentition has generally been toward a decrease in tooth generation, as well as towards a more complex shape of the crowns of teeth. The research indicates that Wnt signalling could have played a crucial role in these changes during evolution.

The results also suggest that mice have retained incipient potential for continuous tooth generation and that it can be unlocked by activating Wnt signalling. It is reasonable to conjecture that the potential for continuous tooth generation may also have been retained in humans. Who knows: perhaps dentists in the distant future may be able to use this million-year-old regenerative potential to make their patients grow new teeth to replace lost ones.

Source: University of Helsinki

Explore further: Research into brain control of liver lipid production could cause break in obesity, diabetes treatment

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Denmark likely to ban ridesharing service Uber

4 minutes ago

Two months after the ride-hailing app Uber was introduced in Denmark, the country's transport minister has said the service likely will be banned because it violates Danish law.

Artificial intelligence future wows Davos elite

14 minutes ago

From the robot that washes your clothes to the robot that marks homework: the future world of artificial intelligence wowed the Davos elite Thursday, but the rosy picture came with a warning.

Got Battery? Lots of low battery hacks but no quick fix

30 minutes ago

At a cozy watering hole in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, bartender Kathy Conway counted four different phone chargers behind the bar. Call it the scourge of the red zone, call it battery anxiety. ...

Recommended for you

Using stem cells to grow new hair

Jan 27, 2015

In a new study from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham), researchers have used human pluripotent stem cells to generate new hair. The study represents the first step toward the development ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.