Scientists Grow Teeth From Scratch in Most Unnerving Study Ever

March 15, 2013 | Andy Cush

There’s just something really weird and gross about teeth. Everybody’s always dreaming that theirs are falling out, and even when they stay in like they’re supposed to, the fact that i have a bunch of bones protruding from the fleshy tissue in my mouth is something I can only focus on for a short while before I start thinking about this.

And so even though this study in which a team of King’s College London scientists grew a workable set of teeth, roots and all, using gum tissue from humans and tooth cells from fetal mice, has obvious positive implications for the dental world, I’d rather never think about it again. If you’ve got  a stronger than I, here’s how they pulled it off. From the Scientist:

Teeth develop when embryonic epithelial cells in the mouth combine with mesenchymal cells derived from the neural crest. Previous studies have shown that these cells can be combined in the lab to formal normal teeth, but the challenge was to find non-embryonic source of the cells that could be used in the clinic.

In order to avoid using human embryos, the team used adult human epithelial (gum) cells combined with mesenchymal (tooth) cells from the mice, then implanted the mixture into kidney tissue of living mice. What grew was a set of human-mouse hybrid teeth, which is the most frightening phrase I’ve written in weeks.