Cloning Teeth: Medicine's Next Big Thing? - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Cloning Teeth: Medicine's Next Big Thing?

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Nearly 70 percent of adults age 35 to 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth, and by age 74, more than a quarter of American adults have lost all of their permanent teeth. While there are options to replace those teeth, what if you could grow your own?

Dentures are the past, dental implants are the present and the future could be teeth grown from stem cells.

"People really care about their teeth and they really care once those teeth are gone," Peter Murray, Ph.D., a professor of Endodontics at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told Ivanhoe.

Danka Premovic agrees. When previous dental work failed, she began wearing a mask.

"I'm a perky person. I'm a people person and for me to cover up my mouth and wear a mask, it's just not me," Danka Premovic, said.

Today, she has eight implants. It's patients like her dental regeneration researcher Peter Murray wants to help.

"It would be nice to give people back their own teeth and make their whole body whole again," Dr. Murray said.

To grow teeth, researchers isolate stem cells from the mouth or bone marrow. The cells are multiplied in the lab, and then grown on 3D scaffolds.

"All the animal studies that have been done so far are very encouraging, so it looks like the clinical trials will be successful," Dr. Murray said.

The teeth can be grown in the lab and implanted in the patient or they could actually grow inside the patient's mouth, filling in empty spaces with new teeth in just a few months.

"This will be, in the future, standard of care in dentistry to use stem cell therapy to regrow teeth or parts of teeth."

Dentist Sharon Siegel said there's no doubt about it.

"If they can have a part of their body replaced by a part of them, I think we're going to have a whole new era in dentistry," Sharon Siegel, DDS at Nova Southeastern University said.

Though Danka is happy with her new implants, she said she'll be first in line when clinical trials for these begin.

Doctor Murray said growing replacement teeth from stem cells will pave the way for growing other complete replacement body parts. He says teeth are relatively safe because if a tooth fails, it can simply be extracted.

RESEARCH SUMMARY

BACKGROUND:  Tooth loss, although often associated with a diet high in sugar, has been a problem for as long as mankind has existed. Before the widespread use of refined sugar in food, tooth loss was often a result of disease and malnutrition, although dietary practices also contributed to the problem. Several studies have documented the negative aspects of not having teeth or dentures — including impaired nutritional intake, lower self-confidence and self-esteem and reduced quality of life. The three most common tooth replacement options are dental implants, fixed bridges and removable appliances. (Source: perio.org)

STEM CELLS: Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell. (Source: The National Institutes of Health resource for stem cell research)

CLONING TEETH: Nova Southeastern University's dental researchers at the College of Dental Medicine are growing and harvesting human dental stem cells in the lab. The cells normally grow in flat layers of single cells in Petri dishes. To get them to form a 3-D tissue structure, researchers seed the cells on tissue engineering scaffolds made from the same polymer material as bio-resorbable surgical sutures. The scaffolds function like those you see around buildings under construction. They provide mechanical support and control the size and shape of a tissue. Once the stem cells are seeded on the scaffolds, researchers add growth factors to signal to the stem cells what type of tissue to grow. The combination of dental stem cells, tissue engineering scaffolds and growth factors allows researchers to engineer new tooth tissues. NSU scientists are working, similar tooth research labs, to create fully functional replacement teeth.

Dental researchers have been successful at regenerating teeth in the laboratory and in animals. They have developed a stem cell therapy for growing new teeth following root canal treatment, and also for replanting teeth that have been knocked out of the mouth. In NSU's technique for regenerating teeth, the pre-clinical trial subjects were able to eat and chew normally. No current studies have examined the ability of animals to eat using completely regenerated teeth because no one has yet regenerated all the teeth in an animal. In NSU's technique, the soft tissue, or pulp, inside teeth was removed and regenerated. The monkey subjects were able to use their teeth normally to eat and chew.

NSU is in the process of patenting a "regeneration kit" that will allow dentists to deliver stem cell therapies to replace dead tissue inside a tooth. In addition, several companies are collecting baby teeth to harvest stem cells through dental offices. The stem cells are being stored for future regenerative therapies, including growing new teeth or growing other replacement organs. (Source: NSU, Sun Sentinel)

INTERVIEW

Dr. Peter Murray, PhD, a Professor of Endodontics at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale in Florida, talks about futuristic teeth technology.

So how long ago did you start looking at this idea of regenerating teeth and why?

Dr. Peter Murray: I began in England in 1996, and from that time we were very interested in how we can give patients replacement teeth. We did some in-vitro studies, and we were growing cells in some animal studies. My work has just flourished from there. We've completed many studies and published many articles on trying to re-grow teeth and also regenerate teeth, because you can have parts of teeth that we want to regenerate.

How did you starting using stem cells?

Dr. Peter Murray: Stem cells are the most valuable cells for re-growing tissues. Our body contains millions of stem cells that are circulating around everyday from the bone marrow effectively. We do have the capability to regenerate, the key is to take the regeneration capacity and improve it, try and re-grow replacement body parts including teeth.

What is the process to regenerate teeth?

Dr. Peter Murray: First of all we have to find the stem cell. We have to isolate it and purify it, make sure it's safe to use, and then we grow it. We obtain it in a healthy environment. We nourish it and give it all the ingredients it needs. Then we add scaffolds because we want the cells to grow into a tissue of a certain size and shape. In order to do that, we give it a scaffold, like a framework to grow in, and this tells the cells what size and shape we'd like the replacement tooth to be. We then add growth factors and these signal to the stem cells what activity they should take. For example, we want a mineralized tissue; we want growth factors that cause mineralization. If we want soft tissue, we give them a different sample of factors. We can signal to the cells what type of tissue we want to be our end result, it's like a recipe or cookbook. If you start off with your flour, our flour is stem cells, and then you add all your ingredients together and try and bake a cake. In our case the cake is a tooth. Most adult stem cells have a certain degree of differentiation. This means the cell already knows what the tissue wants to become, so all you have to do is use those cells and give them the recipe that will cause them to become teeth.

Where do you get the stem cells?

Dr. Peter Murray: You can take stem cells from a person's bone marrow or you can take them from the person's oral tissues. Beneath the tooth is an area that we call the periapical tissue, and we find our stem cell population there. We find that if you have a tooth and we can open the tooth and we want to regenerate that tooth, we can open the tissue at the bottom of the tooth and we can find stem cells there that can regenerate the tooth.

What's the next step?

Dr. Peter Murray: You have to take the cake and transplant it into the patient. It's the most difficult step, it requires clinical trials. Those are maybe 10 years in the future because we have to test the safety of the procedure first before we can deliver it to the patients. But my belief is that once we can re-grow teeth and make sure that it's safe, we'll probably be the first stem cell therapy that patients will become used to in America. If the tooth fails, we can extract it, it's not the same with a heart. If you are regenerating a heart and it malfunctions, it's more difficult to remove it. I think teeth are a testing ground for stem cell therapies and organ replacement.

You have implanted them into animals, correct?

Dr. Peter Murray: Yes, we've already done animal studies that show that we can regenerate teeth in those animals. If you think about it, humans already have two sets of teeth. You have your baby teeth and adult teeth, and all we are trying to do is copy nature and give the person the third option to re-grow their teeth.

Can you tell me about the animal studies?

Dr. Peter Murray: All the animal studies that have been done so far and been promising. It looks like the clinical trials will be successful, but of course until the procedures are all tested, we've made sure that they are absolutely safe; it can lead over to patients. This is what we are all working on. Everyone in the field at this present time is making sure we're delivering safe and effective procedures, because we know there is a high demand for replacement teeth and body parts. We know that people are suffering without them. If we can give these therapies and give them to patients in the clinic, it will really improve their quality of life.

Why do you think people are so excited about this?

Dr. Peter Murray: Because people really care about their teeth, and they really care once those teeth are gone. We need to have procedures where we can give patients replacement teeth. We have very effective procedures already, we have dental implants, we have dentures, but it would be nice to give people back their own teeth and make their whole body whole again.

Is there a risk of rejection?

Dr. Peter Murray: No

Are there any risks?

Dr. Peter Murray: There's always a risk the treatment will fail. We have to be prepared to workout a plan. What we found with the stem cell therapy is that if the tooth fails you can simply replace it with another grown tooth. If a part of a tooth is failing then we can re-grow part of that tooth.

How long does it take to grow a tooth?

Dr. Peter Murray: We can see very small teeth grown within 60 days. You can see the crown, you can see the root, and you can see the structure inside the tooth for larger animals. Because those teeth are bigger, it takes longer, so there are really two approaches. One is to try to re-grow a tooth whole inside the patient, but then the patient is going to have to wait months or even a year until that tooth is normal. We can also grow a tooth in the lab that's already made and implant it, like a dental implant. Dental implants are made from titanium and our implants are really made from teeth.

What's the easiest approach?

Dr. Peter Murray: I think the easiest approach is to grow it in the lab so that will be the first technique. Re-growing it in the mouth is a problem for the patient because it's still not functional, and they want their treatment to be completed very quickly. One of the advantages of re-growing teeth and getting people replacement teeth is that it will feel natural again; they'll have sensation in the tooth, if you have a fake tooth, and it does not feel natural.

So everything is there?

Dr. Peter Murray: Yes, you want to give people back their whole body again and give them the natural ability to eat and talk and smile. That's what people want and we don't have that technology yet, which is why this field of work is so exciting to me and why I come here everyday and try and re-grow teeth. As a researcher, you have to be very passionate about your work or you will never be successful, this is how I live and eat and sleep and dream.

If you lost a tooth or needed a replacement tooth, would you want to be involved in these trials?

Dr. Peter Murray: The ultimate test of stem cell therapy is would you give it to your loved one? You know your family, your brother, your sister, your mother, your daughter, and we have not reached that stage yet. We are working towards making sure these procedures are safe, so we haven't gotten to that stage, but yes I would.

If we fast forward 25 years from now, can you foresee this being the standard practice?

Dr. Peter Murray: Researchers like me are absolutely certain that the future of dental treatment will be to re-grow teeth or re-grow parts of teeth or re-grow bone or any tissues that the patient needs. This technology will be common medical practice in the future because if someone comes with malfunctioning tissues or injured tissues or lost tissues, we want to replace them and make that person whole and health again, and this will be the goal of medicine. It will improve the quality of everyone's lives.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Peter Murray Ph.D.
Nova Southern University
(954) 262-7366
petemurr@nova.edu

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