A child receives a free dental check at a practice in Hubei province. (Photo/Xinhua)
A team of Chinese scientists have discovered that urine can be used to grow new teeth.
The results published in the Cell Regeneration Journal revealed that urine may be used as a source of stem cells that could in turn be grown into tiny tooth-like tissue. The scientists at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health hope that the technique could be developed into a way of replacing lost teeth.
The research team said they used urine as a starting point and harvested cells that are normally passed from the body before coaxing the collected cells into stem cells. A mix of these stem cells and other cells from a mouse was then implanted into test animals and after three weeks the bundle of cells began resembling a tooth.
The tooth-like structure contained dental pulp, dentin, enamel space and enamel organ, the report said, but noted that the structure was not as hard as naturally grown teeth.
While the research will not result in any immediate new dental options, the researchers believe it could lead to further studies that could lead to the total regeneration of human teeth for clinical therapy.
Not all stem cell experts view the research as a breakthrough. Chris Mason at University College London told the BBC that urine was a poor starting point because it is "probably one of the worst sources" from which to develop stem cells.
"The big challenge here is the teeth have got a pulp with nerve and blood vessels which have to make sure they integrate to get permanent teeth," Mason said.