Cells collected from rat urine have been used by Chinese researchers to create structures that bear a strong resemblance to human teeth. The results are giving a boost to the long-held hope that future generations may be able to replace lost teeth with new, natural (if lab-created) teeth when required.
The findings are promising, but there are still limitations to this research. The tooth-like structures created in the lab are only about 1/3 as hard as human teeth, and there is still a very low success rate when cultivating them — about 30%. The researchers believe that using human cells collected from urine may resolve these issues, however.
Unfortunately, not everyone thinks this is the best way to go about growing new teeth. “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,” Chris Mason, a researcher at University College, London, told the BBC. “You just wouldn’t do it in this way.”
Maintaining good oral health over one’s life span just became even more important. A new study has found that those who have fewer natural teeth remaining later in life perform more poorly on memory tests than toothier test subjects.
Researchers looked at 273 people age 55 and older, and found a statistically significant relationship between a study participant’s number of natural teeth, and their performance on memory tests.
The findings still held true when researchers accounted for age, as well as education and health history.
It is possible that losing natural teeth reduces sensory signals that teeth send to the brain, affecting its functions, including memory, the researchers said. They also believe that a possible common factor could be responsible for the link between teeth and memory. For instance, gum infections that could lead to tooth loss may also cause inflammation, which may, in turn, cause neuronal death and memory loss.
Study participants had an average of 22 natural teeth, almost one-third fewer than a complete set of human teeth, which may have caused them to avoid or eat less of certain foods that contain the nutrients necessary for maintaining a strong memory, the researchers said.
–Dr. Shannon Norman-Kotre, Ann Arbor Dentist