Japanese scientists develop first of its kind drug that stimulates tooth growth in humans

By Alma Fabiani

Published Oct 5, 2023 at 08:45 AM

Reading time: 1 minute

Japanese pharmaceutical company Toregem Biopharma has developed a first-of-its-kind antibody drug that stops proteins in the mouth responsible for suppressing tooth growth. In the future, the treatment could be used to regrow human teeth, offering an alternative to the invasive procedures of implants or dentures. A world without veneers? Yes, please.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. The company is planning to kick off human clinical trials in July 2024 and, depending on the results, eventually bring the drug to market by 2030, Japan Times reported.

“[Our] final goal is to offer advanced and scientifically driven clinical solution for the growth of teeth derived from their own tissues,” Toregem Biopharma’s president Honoka Kiso wrote on the company’s website.

The drug works by inhibiting a gene called USAG-1, which is responsible for stopping “tooth buds,” which most people have, from ever developing into either baby or permanent teeth. By inhibiting that gene, Toregem’s new drug will stimulate the growth of these buds.

So far, animal research that’s been conducted has been promising. In 2018, the team of researchers tested the drug on ferrets, which have similar tooth buds to humans, and found that new teeth grew successfully.

In 2025, the team plans to hold a clinical trial for the drug for children aged between 2 and 6 years old diagnosed with anodontia, which is the medical term for complete absence of teeth. People with anodontia don’t have natural teeth because they never developed them. The children will be injected with one dose to induce teeth growth.

If successful, there are also hopes to utilise the drug in the future for adults who have lost teeth due to cavities. “Missing teeth in a child can affect the development of their jaw bone,” said Katsu Takahashi, co-founder of Toregem Biopharma and head of dentistry and oral surgery at Kitano Hospital in Osaka, speaking to Japanese newspaper The Mainichi.

“The idea of growing new teeth is every dentist’s dream. I’ve been working on this since I was a graduate student,” he continued, concluding: “We hope the drug will serve as a key to solving those problems.”

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