man with missing tooth
Sean Cate
Sean Cate
May 16, 2024 ·  3 min read

Drug Therapy for Tooth Regeneration is Set for Human Clinical Trials

Severe tooth loss can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to maintain a healthy diet. About one-quarter of adults aged 65 or older have eight or fewer teeth, and approximately one in six have lost all of their teeth.1 However, there is hope on the horizon. A Japanese research team is making groundbreaking progress in developing a medication that may enable tooth regeneration.2 Clinical trials for this tooth regrowth medicine will begin in July 2024, to make it available for general use by 2030.

The Pursuit of New Teeth

The lead researcher of the Japanese team, Katsu Takahashi, has been working on the concept of growing new teeth since his days as a graduate student. He expressed his confidence in making it happen. The focus of the research is on individuals with a congenital condition known as anodontia, which is when people grow fewer than a full set of teeth. Genetic factors are seen as the primary cause of anodontia, affecting approximately 1% of the population. People with anodontia face challenges in basic activities like chewing, swallowing, and speaking from a young age, impacting their overall development.

A Breakthrough in Tooth Regeneration

The research team identified a specific gene called USAG-1 that limits tooth growth in mice. By developing a neutralizing antibody medicine that blocks the action of USAG-1, the researchers induced tooth regrowth in mice and ferrets. In experiments from 2018, mice with a congenitally low number of teeth saw growth of new teeth after trying the medicine. The findings of this study were released in a U.S. scientific paper in 2021 and gained significant attention as the world’s first tooth regeneration medicine.

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Clinical Trials and Future Prospects

The research team is now focusing on preparing the drug for human use. Once the safety and efficacy of the drug are a go, it will aim to treat children aged 2 to 6 who exhibit anodontia. This age group is particularly susceptible to the negative impacts of tooth loss on development. The researchers hope to pave the way for the clinical use of tooth-regrowth medicine.

The development of a drug to regenerate teeth has the potential to revolutionize the field of dentistry. While humans are allegedly grow only two sets of teeth in their lifetime, evidence suggests that the “buds” for a third set exist. Animals such as sharks and some reptile species continuously regrow teeth throughout their lives. By unlocking the ability for humans to grow a third set of teeth, this drug could offer an alternative solution for individuals who have lost their teeth due to severe cavities or dental diseases.3

Currently, when treatment for tooth regeneration becomes impossible due to severe cavities or dental diseases, people must rely on dental appliances like dentures or dental implants. However, if tooth-regrowth medicine becomes a viable option, individuals may have the opportunity to regain their natural teeth. This development could mark a paradigm shift in dentistry, where dentures, implants, and tooth-regrowth medicine coexist as choices for patients.

Conclusion

The pursuit of drug therapy for tooth regeneration has taken a significant step forward with the Japanese research team’s progress. Clinical trials for the tooth regrowth medicine will begin in July 2024, to make it available for general use by 2030. This breakthrough has the potential to change the field of dentistry and offer new hope to individuals who have lost their teeth. With further advancements and research, tooth-regrowth medicine could become a viable third option alongside dentures and dental implants, letting individuals to regain their natural teeth and improve their quality of life.

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Sources

  1. Tooth Loss.” CDC
  2. World’s 1st ‘tooth regrowth’ medicine moves toward clinical trials in Japan.” Mainichi. June 12, 2023.
  3. A drug that makes teeth regrow: Scientists move closer to clinical trials.” Euro News. Camille Bello. July 12, 2023.