The wonders of stem cell research seems to know no bounds as a group of scientists in Japan have created entire teeth units complete with connective fibers and bones via the stem cells of mice. The findings were published in PLoS One (Public Library of Science).
Researchers hope that this research marks the first step in the long journey of being able to develop new human organs grown from a patient’s own stem cells.
Working in a laboratory, the scientific team removed two types of stem cells from the molar teeth of mice, placed and in a mold, where they grew into entire tooth units. They were then transplanted into the lower jaws of one-month-old mice. These new teeth fused after 40 days.
“The bioengineered teeth were fully functional … There was no trouble (with) biting and eating food after transplantation,” wrote Masamitsu Oshima, assistant professor at the Research Institute for Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Science.
Organ replacement regenerative therapy is still years away for human patients, but with each new breakthrough the reality becomes a bit closer. The future of this kind of therapy will require new technologies to be developed that will culture the bio-engineered organ, which must live in vitro (outside the body).
Stem cells are like master keys; they open doors that lead to the source of all living cells and tissues. Their versatility lies in the fact that they are undifferentiated and can generate, multiply and self-renew into all different cell types (sort of like tofu reacts to other foods, becoming them in a way). Scientists hope by harnessing these cells, cancer, diabetes and serious spinal injuries may one day be a thing of the past.
Stem cell research is still in its infancy but there is no question that it holds the answer for the elimination of much human suffering.