(NaturalNews) Could you imagine going to the dentist's office and handing them a urine sample so they could grow you a new tooth? Within weeks, stem cells from your urine could be birthing a tooth right in your own mouth.
This is exactly what Chinese researchers are onto. Using cells generated from urine, researchers have found a way to isolate important stem cell subsets, implant them into a jawline, and generate structures similar to human teeth. Stem cells from urine are on the verge of become the new building blocks for tooth implants, as orthodontists may one day be able 'seed' new tooth growths in the jaws of patients who need a transplant.
"These cells can be obtained through a simple, non-invasive low-cost approach that avoids surgical procedures," said Yuanyuan Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of regenerative medicine and senior researcher on the project.
Urine could regenerate multiple body systems
Reported in the journal Stem Cells, urine stem cells could be used for a variety of regenerative functions. They have been studied to effectively generate cells that line the bladder, could alternatively be used to form fat, muscle, and nerve cells, and could even be used to form bone and cartilage.
So far, Zhang's research is proving that urine stem cells may be the safest to use out of all human stem cells, especially embryonic stem cells which can form tumors when implanted in the body. According to Zhang's team, urine stem cells do not form tumors like embryonic stem cells. Zhang and his team isolated the special urine stem cells in 2006, learning that they originate from the upper urinary tract. Their discovery has inspired further research, as scientists begin moving away from the controversial use of embryonic stem cells.
Generating strong teeth still in its infant stages
Teeth generated from urine involves a growth process that takes about three weeks. The science is still in its infant stages, though, as the 'tooth structures' only resemble real teeth. According to the researchers at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, actual human urine pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can be used to create different cell types that mimic tooth components like dentin, enamel, cementum and pulp, but the strength of these teeth is far from the strength of normal, healthy teeth.
The results of their latest research, published in the journal Cell Regeneration, explain how the researchers transplanted urine stem cells into mice, effectively growing teeth in their jaws similar to human teeth. The major setback they faced was that they were only able to generate teeth about a third of the strength of regular human teeth. On top of that, they are only having about a 30 percent success rate.
For the experiment to be more successful in humans, they believe in using a patient's own urine stem cells. By using a patient's own stem cells, there may be a lesser chance that the patient's body would reject the implanted cells. Bodies typically reject foreign cells.
Hard feat to accomplish
Scientists are just now experimenting with urine stem cells, but generating strong teeth that connect with nerve and blood vessels may be a hard feat to accomplish.
Prof. Mason, scientist at University College London, "The big challenge here is the teeth have got a pulp with nerve and blood vessels which have to make sure they integrate to get permanent teeth."
Prof. Chris Mason believes urine is one of the worst sources for stem cell research. He says that the risk of bacterial contamination is higher in these cells.
"It is probably one of the worst sources, there are very few cells in the first place and the efficiency of turning them into stem cells is very low.