A Moment Of Tooth

Regenerating a whole tooth is no less complicated than rebuilding a whole heart, says Songtao Shi of the University of Southern California, who heads a team working on creating such a tooth. Not only do you have to create smart tissue (nerves), strong tissue (ligaments) and soft tissue (pulp), you’ve got to build enamel — by far the hardest structural element in the body. And you have to have openings for blood vessels and nerves. And you have to make the whole thing stick together. And you have to anchor it in bone. And then you have to make the entire arrangement last a lifetime in the juicy stew of bacteria that is your mouth. It’s a nuisance, but researchers are closing in on it. In fact, they think the tooth will probably be the first complex organ to be completely regenerated from stem cells. In part this is because teeth are easily accessible — say ahhhhh. So are adult stem cells, found abundantly in both wisdom and baby teeth — no embryos required, and your immune system won’t reject your own cells

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