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Japanese researchers invent game-changing drug that could help grow back teeth

Researchers have discovered an antibody drug that can hopefully regrow teeth and work wonders on dental conditions.

Japanese researchers invent game-changing drug that could help grow back teeth
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Cottonbro Studio, The Mainichi | Dr. Katsu Takahashi

It is said that every tooth in a man’s head is worth more than a diamond, perhaps that’s the reason children dream of tooth fairies. While we may have outgrown the legend of tooth fairies, the possibility of growing back teeth appears to be coming true. Thankfully a group of Japanese researchers and dentists have made a remarkable discovery that will enable the regrowth of teeth in a human being. The medical company, Toregem Biopharma, funded by Kyoto University, is developing a “tooth regeneration antibody drug” based on the research results of Dr. Katsu Takahashi, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Kyoto University. “The idea of growing new teeth is every dentist's dream,” company co-founder Dr. Takahashi, told Japanese newspaper The Mainichi. “I've been working on this since I was a graduate student.”

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Anna Shvets
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Anna Shvets

During the span of their research, the first breakthrough came in the year 2007, according to Toregem Biopharma's development project report, when a model mouse with supernumerary teeth (more teeth than usual) was discovered. USAG-1 gene deficiency was found to be the cause of these supernumerary teeth in the model mouse. Based on the findings from the mouse, they concluded that teeth could be regenerated in humans with congenital or acquired tooth defects by inactivating the USAG-1 protein with a drug. To test this hypothesis, they used anti-USAG-1 antibodies to check the biological activity of antibodies. In the current scenario, this experiment is focused on patients affected by a condition called anodontia, a genetic disorder resulting from the lack of a full set of adult teeth, or partial anodontia, that is, lacking some teeth. “A single systemic administration of a neutralizing antibody can generate a whole tooth,” according to the tooth-regeneration research published in the Science Advances journal.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Cedric Fauntleroy
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Cedric Fauntleroy

While animals including sharks, lizards and some reptilian species can continuously regrow teeth, it's been assumed that humans only grow two sets of teeth in their lifetime, but, there is evidence that humans also have dormant "buds" for a third set, a fact also elaborated by My Modern Met. The team created an antibody drug that inhibits the protein that suppresses the growth of teeth. The drug works on these buds and stimulates their growth.

 

Typically, patients suffering from dental disorders have no other treatment option than implants, but if this study works out, it will churn a new alternative and possibility to treat these dental conditions. The study co-author Manabu Sugai of the University of Fukui, explained, “Conventional tissue engineering is not suitable for tooth regeneration. Our study shows that cell-free molecular therapy is effective for a wide range of congenital tooth agenesis," as quoted in the official research publication of Fukui University.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Anna Shvets
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Anna Shvets

According to The Japan Times, the team plans to hold a clinical trial for the drug in 2025 for children between 2 and 6 years of age, children who are born with the lack of some or all permanent teeth. The children will be injected with one dose to induce teeth growth. The clinical trials for this newfangled research are expected to start in the year 2024, but according to IFL Science, as for now, the researchers say that they are planning to repeat the experiment on other mammals such as pigs and dogs.

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