Teeth do not grow back as soon as we become adults, which is why it is important to keep them as clean and healthy as possible.
The start of clinical trials for a potential treatment for tooth regrowth has been announced in July 2024, based on decades of research in this area. If these trials are successful, therapeutic drugs could be available by 2030.
A team from the Medical Research Institute at Kitano hospital in Japan is in charge of the trial, which targets people with hypodontia, a rare genetic condition that prevents children’s and adult teeth from growing normally.
The treatment will initially be aimed at young children with this condition, but then, the researchers believe, it could also be used more widely – with people with more common dental problems, such as gum disease, for example.
Katsu Takahashi, head of the Department of Dentistry and oral surgery at Kitano hospital, said: “the idea of a new dental implant is the dream of every dentist. I’ve been working on this since I was a graduate student. I was confident that I would be able to achieve this”.
Here’s how it works: after finding the link between a specific gene called USAG-1 and restrictions on tooth growth in mice, the researchers turned to tests that tried to block the expression of USAG-1 itself.
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An antibody has been discovered that can safely block some of the activity of USAG-1 in mice and rodents without causing any serious side effects, which leads to stimulation of tooth growth. The next step is to see if the same chemical reactions can be controlled in humans.
We are talking about potential (possibilities) rather than reality at the moment, but it may be possible to use the new drug to stimulate the growth of a third generation of teeth in the mouth, after baby teeth and full-sized adult teeth.
As the researchers noted in a recent scientific review, the benefit of this approach is that tooth growth is stimulated in a natural way, through a process known as bone-forming protein signaling (BMP).
And our body does this work naturally, without the need for any complex stem cell engineering.
The team also suggests that advances in scanning technology (such as mass spectrometry, for example) will make it easier to identify biomarkers that indicate which people will benefit the most from treatment.
“Antibody treatment of USAG-1 in mice is effective for tooth regeneration and could be a breakthrough in the treatment of dental abnormalities in humans,”the researchers write.