Some sharks grow a new set of teeth every few weeks, while a crocodile may chew thousands of times during its long life. However, we and virtually all other mammals do not have the ability to constantly replace our pearly whites. When our 32 “adult” teeth come in, they are at their best.
Now, a team of Japanese scientists is set to test an experimental drug that could allow humans to grow entirely new teeth.
The clinical trial, scheduled for July 2024, will initially target participants with hypodontia, a genetic disorder that causes tooth loss, but scientists hope to make the treatment universally available as soon as 2030 .
“The idea of growing new teeth is every dentist’s dream,” said Katsu Takahashi, principal investigator and head of the Department of Dentistry and Oral Surgery at Kitano Hospital, Osaka Institute of Medical Research. “I’ve been working on this since graduate school. I feel confident that I can make it happen.”
In an earlier study, researchers identified an antibody against uterine sensitization-associated gene 1 (USAG-1) that stimulated the growth of new teeth in mice with hypodontia.
Essentially, the scientists discovered that USAG-1 interacts with other proteins to inhibit tooth growth. Blocking this interaction leads to bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling, which triggers the growth of new teeth.
Ferret experiments have been similarly successful in growing new teeth, following a 2018 mouse experiment. The animals grew a seventh incisor, which is the same shape and structure as their neighbors.
“We hope to pave the way for the clinical application of this drug,” Takahashi said.
for many yearsAmong other experimental studies, scientists have been trying to decipher the gene expression code that keeps animals like sharks growing teeth, but translating it to human applications has been elusive.