Losing your teeth doesn’t just cause problems when you look in the mirror. It also has a drastic impact on your quality of life since you may have trouble eating. On top of this, tooth decay and loss may be signs of an underlying disorder that needs to be treated.
Everyone knows that humans get two sets of teeth—one as children that falls out and another which is meant to last a lifetime. Whether or not that second set holds up depends on how well you take care of them. Once they’re gone though, they’re gone for good.
Unless scientists from Japan’s Kyoto University and the University of Fukui have something to say about. According to Futurism, the researchers have developed a new monoclonal antibody treatment that could trick the body into growing new teeth.
Yes, the approach is a bit strange. However, it could be a useful treatment for those that have lost their adult teeth and don’t want to get implants or wear dentures for the rest of their life.
In the human body, genes control everything. Certain segments of DNA are responsible for individual characteristics and some control multiple aspects of how your body looks and functions. According to the team’s research, which was published in the journal Science Advances, tweaking select genes could be enough to tell the body to grow new teeth.
The researchers found that blocking the USAG-1 gene caused increased activity of Bone Morphogenic Protein (BMP), Futurism reports. Interestingly, BMP is responsible for the adult teeth that grow in the first place. In a study with mice, increasing BMP’s activity caused them to regrow missing teeth.
The approach also worked with ferrets. As Futurism points out, this is a noteworthy development since ferret teeth more closely resemble human teeth than those of mice.
In a press release, Katsu Takahashi, the study’s lead author, said, “Ferrets are diphyodont animals with similar dental patterns to humans. Our next plan is to test the antibodies on other animals such as pigs and dogs.”
As with anything that deals with genetics, safety is a top priority. That could be a problem for this novel treatment. Before identifying the right gene, researchers found that trying to influence tooth growth can have negative impacts on other parts of the body. In fact, tweaking certain genes caused mice to be born with defects.
That doesn’t mean the treatment will never work. After all, it is still in the very early stages of being studied. What it does mean is that researchers will need to thoroughly prove the approach is safe before it can be used in human trials.
Nonetheless, it is interesting to consider what this could mean for the future. If humans can regrow teeth, further applications could follow. Perhaps one day it will be possible to regrow bones or even entire limbs. Only time will tell how far this research will take us.