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New Drug Discovery Could Make Re-Growing Teeth Possible

A single administration of the antibody was able to generate a whole tooth in mice.

Losing a tooth in adulthood can be hard since humans can only renew their teeth once in childhood. After replacing the milk teeth with permanent teeth, we lose the tooth renewal capability, and currently, when any part of a tooth dies, it cannot be brought back to life, except with fake teeth.

Scientists at Kyoto University and the University of Fukui have come up with a new study that offers some hope -- according to the paper published in Science Advances, an antibody for one gene, uterine sensitization associated gene-1 or USAG-1, was able to stimulate tooth growth in animal studies, Medical Xpress reports.

A single administration could generate a whole tooth

The researchers state that the molecules behind tooth development were already known. "The morphogenesis of individual teeth depends on the interactions of several molecules including BMP, or bone morphogenetic protein, and Wnt signaling," explains Katsu Takahashi, one of the lead authors of the study and a senior lecturer at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine. USAG-1 interacts with both BMP and Wnt, and the researchers knew that suppressing it would benefit tooth growth. "What we did not know was whether it would be enough."

The researchers examined the effects of several monoclonal antibodies, which are often used to treat cancers and in vaccine development, for USAG-1. One of the antibodies was able to disrupt the interaction of USAG-1 with BMP only, without any side effects. 

When the researchers experimented with this antibody, it was seen that BMP signaling is essential for determining the number of teeth in mice, and amazingly, a single administration was able to generate a whole tooth.

These findings are promising since ferrets have similar dental patterns to humans. As the next step, the researchers want to test antibodies on animals such as pigs and dogs.

"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," concluded Manabu Sugai, another author of the study.

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