Urine Luck! Scientists Grow Teeth Out of Pee
File this under the category of “Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” A team of scientists at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health in Guangzhou (formerly Canton), China have successfully grown teeth in a lab, but they grew them out of one of the substances you’d least want to put in your mouth: urine.
The researchers gathered cells from human urine, changed them into more versatile stem cells and implanted them into the kidneys of mice. Within three weeks, the cells grew into basic “tooth-like structures” that contained elements of teeth, such as dental pulp, dentin and early stages of enamel — although the pseudo-teeth weren’t quite as hard as normal, natural teeth.
While there have been other successful attempts to create teeth in a lab setting, this was the first time urine cells were used as the source. The Chinese scientific team chose urine in large part because of its availability; after all, wherever there are people, there’s pee.
However, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that some other experts in the field doubt the wisdom of using urine-derived stem cells to generate teeth. Chris Mason, a stem cell scientist at University College London, for instance, calls urine a “one of the worst sources” of stem cells because there is only a small number of cells in it, and the process of turning them into stem cells is very inefficient. He also addresses the elephant in the room by adding that using urine runs the risk of contamination, a risk he claims is much greater than with other sources.
Regardless of the objections, the study could help pave the way for the growing of human teeth to replace ones that have been knocked out or lost due to poor dental hygiene. If you end up growing your replacement teeth out of urine, however, consider carrying some breath mints.
(Sources: Cell Regeneration, Huffington Post, Science World Report, BBC)