Scientists begin human trials for drug that can regrow teeth: 'Every dentist's dream'

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Japanese pharmaceutical startup Toregem Biopharma is en route to begin human trials on a first-of-its-kind drug that has successfully grown new teeth in animal test subjects.

“Tooth buds”, teeth that form in the jaw, have the potential to develop as a new tooth, as well as baby and permanent teeth. However, the buds rarely develop and ultimately disappear.

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Katsu Takahashi, head of dentistry and oral surgery at Kitano Hospital in Osaka and co-founder of the startup, says his team has developed an antibody drug that stops the USAG-1 protein in the mouth responsible for suppressing tooth growth.

The USAG-1 protein disrupts the two, BMP and Wnt, signalling molecules essential for tooth development.

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

In 2018, the team began its clinical trials on ferrets — which have both baby and permanent teeth similar to humans — and observed new tooth growth.

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The startup plans on beginning clinical trials in 2025 for children between two and six years old with anodontia, a rare genetic condition that prevents baby teeth and adult teeth from growing normally.

“Missing teeth in a child can affect the development of their jaw bone,” Takahashi added. “We hope the drug will serve as a key to solving those problems.”

The children receiving the treatment will be injected with one dose of the drug and will be observed for any teeth growth, the Japan Times reported.

The medicine could be available for regulatory approval by 2030 after a successful human trial.

“In any case, we’re hoping to see a time when tooth-regrowth medicine is a third choice alongside dentures and implants,” Takahashi said.

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