Sharks have unique teeth that regenerate and move forward in rows when the front ones wear out. Inspired by this, researchers at the Kitano Hospital in Osaka, Japan, are working on giving humans a third set of teeth. The team plans to conduct a clinical phase 1 study starting in July next year to determine the safety and effectiveness of a substance that has been successfully tested on mice. If the drug passes all study phases and receives approval, it could be available by 2030.
Normally, humans only develop two sets of teeth. However, researchers believe there is evidence of a third set that usually regresses over time. In some cases, supernumerary teeth, or extra teeth, can develop. The goal of the research is to activate these third tooth buds to grow new teeth.
Tooth development is controlled by various genes, and researchers have identified two genes, including USAG-1, that play a crucial role. By switching off the USAG-1 gene using antibodies that target the associated protein, the researchers were able to trigger the growth of new teeth in mice and ferrets. This approach showed promising results and prevented the regression of tooth buds.
Congenital tooth deficiency affects approximately 1% of the population, and in some cases, patients are missing six or more teeth. This condition can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to chew, swallow, speak, and even affect their growth. When the Japanese antibody drug is available, the researchers plan to initially treat children between the ages of two and six with congenital anodontia, or the absence of teeth.
The potential for humans to have a third set of teeth could revolutionize dental care by addressing congenital tooth defects and providing more options for individuals with missing teeth. It remains to be seen how successful the clinical trials and regulatory approval process will be, but researchers are hopeful that this innovation will benefit those in need.