Teeth made from urine stem cells? Prof remains unmoved

Jul 30, 2013

Chinese team hail 'teeth' grown by mice, but London scientist calls urine 'a poor starting point'

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

A STEM cell scientist from University College London has questioned the worth of a Chinese discovery that new teeth can be grown in mice from the stem cells found in human urine.

Professor Chris Mason said human urine was a poor starting point. "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."

The risk of contamination is much higher than with other cells, Prof Mason said, and it will be a challenge to ensure the re-grown teeth become permanent.

"You just wouldn't do it in this way," he concluded.

Dr Duangqing Pei, one of the team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who made the discovery, disagreed. "This is the most convenient source," he told the New Scientist.

After implanting urine stem cells into a mouse's jawbone, the Chinese team scientists observed tiny tooth-like structures begin to grow, containing elements of tooth material including dental pulp and enamel.

The "teeth" are the first material developed using stem cells made from human waste and the researchers are hopeful that the results, published in Cell Regeneration Journal, could one day lead to the use of urine as a regenerative stem cell technique on humans to replace teeth lost to old age or poor dental hygiene.

The method does have its limitations. Dr Pei said the experiment has enjoyed only a 30 per cent success rate so far, the Daily Mail reports. Also, the re-grown "teeth" are only one-third as hard as a human's original chompers.

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