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British researchers create teeth

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British scientists say they are one step closer to growing new teeth.

Researchers in London created teeth using a mixture of cells from people and mice. Professor Paul Sharpe at The Dental institute at King's College was the lead researcher. His team took human gum cells, altered them in the lab, then combined them with embryonic mice cells. The result: very small, immature teeth that were implanted into the animals where they took root and grew.

"What we need to be able to do is take a small number of cells from a patient, expand them, get many more of them in a lab and then make a tooth from them," Sharpe said.

The gum tissue came from patients at the Dental Institute at King's College London. Researchers say it could be years before what was achieved in the lab is available to patients sitting in the dentist's chair.

The idea is to create an alternative to traditional dental implants which use a piece of metal drilled directly into the jawbone with no cushion around it. Cell-based teeth would have roots connected to the soft tissue around the bone. "That soft tissue provides a shock-absorbing effect on the tooth so the forces of eating are not transmitted directly from the tooth to the bone," Sharpe said.

But researchers say while the idea is taking root, they still have a lot more work to do.

Kitty Logan - CBS News

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