Is it possible to regrow damaged or destroyed teeth? Japanese researchers believe they’ve found a way
By the year 2030, it may finally be possible for humans to grow a third set of teeth as opposed to just the two sets we get now, according to researchers out of Japan.
A groundbreaking new medicine that is slated for human clinical trials in July 2024 has already been shown in prior animal experiments to prompt the growth of “third-generation” teeth, which are a hypothetical third set of human teeth that grow after baby teeth and permanent adult teeth.
“The idea of growing new teeth is every dentist’s dream,” says Katsu Takahashi, the project’s lead researcher and the head of dentistry and oral surgery at the Medical Research Institute Kitano Hospital in the city of Osaka.
“I’ve been working on this since I was a graduate student. I was confident I’d be able to make it occur.”
The research began as part of an effort to treat anodontia, a congenital condition affecting around 1 percent of the population that is marked by the growth of fewer than a full set of teeth.
Anodontia is believed to be a genetic disorder in one-tenth of anodontia patients who lack six or more teeth, this being a condition known as oligodontia, or tooth agenesis.
“People who grow up with tooth agenesis struggle with basic abilities like chewing, swallowing and speaking from a young age, which can harmfully impact their development,” reports explain.
If proven safe and effective, Takahashi’s tooth regrowth serum could revolutionize modern dentistry
When Takahashi was graduating from dental school, industry interest in gene mutations and their effects on tooth growth was strong. Scientists were learning at the time that the mutation of just one gene in mice impacted the number of teeth they grow, which piqued further interest in seeing if the same applied to humans.
Around 2005, Takahashi was working with researchers who discovered that a protein called USAG-1, synthesized by the same aforementioned gene, actually limits the growth of teeth. By blocking that protein, researchers hypothesized, perhaps it would allow for the growth of more teeth.
With the help of his research team, Takahashi focused on developing a neutralizing antibody medicine to block the function of USAG-1. They conducted experiments in 2018 in which the medicine helped mice with a congenitally low number of teeth to grow more, the results of which were published in a 2021 paper.
Now, work is ready to begin testing the same neutralizing antibody medicine on humans, once confirmed to cause no adverse effects. It will first be aimed at children aged 2-6 who exhibit anodontia.
“We hope to pave the way for the medicine’s clinical use,” Takahashi commented.
Some animals, by the way, constantly regrow teeth. Humans are different, of course, but it is not outside the realm of possibility for humans to one day be able to do the same thing with the help of medicine such as this.
Adults with severe cavities or erosion who would otherwise require a root canal or extraction could also benefit from taking the serum, which if successful would cause their bodies to simply regrow a brand-new tooth rather than have to wear dentures or get a crown.
“We’re hoping to see a time when tooth-regrowth medicine is a third choice alongside dentures and implants,” Takahashi said.
Many enthusiasts say they would take a medicinal product like this if it meant avoiding costly and invasive dental procedures, while others say the thought of altering USAG-1 with a drug serum seems worse.
Further studies will show if this new revolutionary discovery is efficient and beneficial for human beings.
September 16, 2023
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