The dream of using stem cells to grow a human organ outside the body to replace a damaged one, has just take one giant baby step forward! Dr. Takashi Tsuji of the Tokyo University of Science and his team have succeeded in growing fully functional teeth from stem cells, in an experiment conducted on mice.
The procedure went thus. The researchers extracted stem cells from the molars of adult mice and grew “tooth germs” (the first stage of a growing tooth) in the laboratory. These “tooth germs” were then transplanted into the jawbones of the mice. In 40 days, the mice grew fully functional teeth, with enamel and blood vessels and showed no difficulty in chewing/eating normally
The breakthrough is that this is the first time, a three dimensional organ has been grown outside the body and transplanted back. The engineered tooth worked just like a natural one, fully compatible with its surroundings.
The biggest potential of stem cells – their use in regenerative therapy i.e. to develop fully functional bio-engineered organs to replace those damaged due to injury, disease or aging, has been further substantiated by the team in Tokyo.
Thanks to stem cells, “a tooth for a tooth” may just have a whole new meaning in the future!