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Frontlines Image: Erica P. Johnson But will the tooth fairy expand operations? Pamela Yelick is not an evil scientist; she is not creating rats that eat themselves alive. Rather, she and her group at Boston's Forsyth Institute have grown tooth crowns in rodents' abdomens to demonstrate the feasibility of bioengineering mammalian teeth from dissociated cells (C.S. Young et. al; "Tissue engineering of complex tooth structures on biodegradable polymer scaffolds," Journal of Dental Researc

Josh Roberts

Frontlines

Image: Erica P. Johnson

But will the tooth fairy expand operations? Pamela Yelick is not an evil scientist; she is not creating rats that eat themselves alive. Rather, she and her group at Boston's Forsyth Institute have grown tooth crowns in rodents' abdomens to demonstrate the feasibility of bioengineering mammalian teeth from dissociated cells (C.S. Young et. al; "Tissue engineering of complex tooth structures on biodegradable polymer scaffolds," Journal of Dental Research, 81:695-700, September 2002). Cells were harvested from pig tooth buds and placed on tooth-shaped biodegradable polymer scaffolds; these were then implanted in the rats' omenta, located in the abdomen. After 20 to 30 weeks, small, mineralized tissues containing both dentin and enamel had formed. The group had adopted the technique of coauthor Joseph Vacanti, who had bioengineered neonatal intestines. Both teeth and intestine are derived from epithelial and mesenchymal components, Yelick remarks, and the omentum...

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