It sounds like the plot of a science fiction B movie – growing human teeth from urine. And not only unusual, but a little disgusting as well. But to those who have lost teeth, that plot can sound like a dream come true. But how would that work exactly?
Generally, it’s done through the use of stem cells. Chinese researchers have been able to use urine to generate human teeth. More specifically, in their experiments, the researchers succeeded in isolating the necessary stem cell subsets from the urine. Once isolated, the researchers were able to implant those cells into a human jawline, and then found a way to generate structures that were similar to human teeth. This process could pave the way for creating all the material needed for tooth implants, which, according to some dental professionals, could be the basis from which new tooth growth could start. This technique can help patients who have lost teeth due to tooth decay, gingivitis, sports and other accidents.
As odd as it may seem on the outset, using urine stem cells isn’t that unusual. For example, scientists have used them for many other regenerative purposes, such as creating cells that form a lining in the bladder, and could also be used to generate muscle and nerve cells, as well as fat. In fact, it might even be possible to create cartilage and bone. The possibilities are encouraging for patients with different medical issues.
Even better is the cost – or lack of it. Obtaining these cells is done easily and simply through a non-invasive and affordable method that does not require any surgical intervention
But wait – it is urine. Is it safe? Some research indicates that this method is safe – the safest out of all human stem cell generation actually. Embryonic stem cells, they can form tumors when implanted in a human. However, stem cells made from urine do not appear to form tumors. This could mean a shift away from the controversial usage of embryonic stem cells and a move towards urine stem cells.Finally, because the stem cells are taken from a person’s own urine, there is less chance for the body to reject the material as it is not a foreign body.
Still, this process is only in its infancy stage, and there are problems researchers need to address. For example, once taken from urine, the growth process for a tooth structure takes about three weeks, but it is important to note that the structure only resembles a tooth. And, because it is urine, some scientists say that there is a greater risk for bacterial contamination.
Additionally, while stem cells made from urine can be used to create different types of cells that simulate parts of the tooth such as enamel, pulp, and dentin, the strength of the generated tooth is nowhere near from the strength of a normal, healthy tooth. And even if an actual tooth of the correct strength is generated, a second issue comes into play – how to connect it to the necessary nerve and blood vessels.
Regardless, it is an exciting time in the science and dental world – generating teeth from urine. Though you could say that this research only has its milk teeth, its potential effects could span a multitude of areas for the better. And that’s something that dentists and patients alike can really sink their teeth into.