Urine may not seem the most likely—or appealing—source for developing a new treatment for missing teeth, but recent research into just that may be the foundation for one day helping “grow” teeth in place of missing teeth, an oral health problem for which dental implants are currently the most durable and natural-looking option.
Teeth from Stem Cells?
Chinese researchers with the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health used stem cells derived from human urine to generate tooth-like structures in a technique they hope could someday be used to generate new teeth for patients who suffer from missing teeth. Without treatment, missing teeth can contribute to progressive oral health problems, including tooth decay, periodontal disease, and loss of bone structure.
According to a BBC report on the research, cells that are normally passed from the body can be harvested in the laboratory then transformed into so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), or master cells that provide the foundation for growing new tissue. Researchers developed a tissue culture system to coax the human urine-derived iPSCs into structures resembling teeth; the system even mimics normal tooth development that results from the interaction between epithelial cells (which help form teeth enamel) and mesenchymal cells (a structural component of teeth dentin, cementum and pulp).
The results of the study were published in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Regeneration, but this research is not the first to indicate that stem cells can be generated from urine. Previous studies demonstrated that cells discarded in human urine can be used to generate cell types that include heart muscle cells; however, research had yet to generate solid organs or tissue from iPSCs.
Limitations of the Study
Although the resulting teeth-like organs were physically and structurally similar to teeth, down to containing dental pulp and dentin, they lacked pulp-based nerves and the blood vessels present in natural teeth.
The process further entailed mouse cells and demonstrated a success rate of around 30 percent. The resulting “tooth” structures were also only about one-third as hard as natural teeth, and thus not durable enough for daily function. Further research is needed before human applications could be developed, but the process holds promise.
If you have missing teeth, it’s advisable to consult with an experienced cosmetic dentist about the best treatment options for your unique needs. In addition to dental implants, there are other treatments available to help restore a vibrant smile and functional bite.
Austin, Texas, Dr. Dan Matthews is dedicated to helping patients create beautiful, healthy smiles. For more information about our services or to schedule an appointment, please contact Dr. Matthews online or call our office at 512-452-2273.