Japanese researchers have successfully implanted bioengineered seed-like tissue into the jaws of mice, growing new teeth for the rodents, according to a study published Monday.
The study, presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates a technique that could be used to replace other organs.
Biologists have previously cultivated limited tissue in a laboratory and successfully transplanted it into animals.
But the researchers, led by Etsuko Ikeda of the Tokyo University of Science, "explored ways to grow a three-dimensional organ in place, starting with teeth," the report said.
"The researchers developed a bioengineered tooth germ, which is a seed-like tissue containing the cells and instructions necessary to form a tooth, and transplanted the germ into the jawbones of mice," it said.
"The authors report that the germs regularly grew into replacement teeth," the report said.
The researchers were able to grow the teeth in gums that had previously held milk and adult teeth and successfully repeated the procedure on multiple occasions, producing teeth hard enough to chew food.
"Our study provides the first evidence of a successful replacement of an entire and fully functioning organ in an adult body through the transplantation of bioengineered organ germ, reconstituted by single cell manipulation in vitro," said Takashi Tsuji, one of the study's authors and a professor at Tokyo University of Science.
The researchers said their method could provide "a model for future organ replacement therapy."
They hope that scientists will eventually be able to use the technique to "develop fully functioning bioengineered organs that can replace lost or damaged organs following disease, injury or aging," the study said.