The world’s first tooth-regrowing drug has been approved for human trials

If things go as planned, the medicine could be available to consumers by 2030.

Unsplash / Marek Studzinski

I remember being a kid and seeing my grandmother without her dentures for the first time. It was a harrowing experience. Now my dad has dentures so, genetically speaking, I’m several decades out from needing some myself. However, it’s possible that modern medicine will solve the issue of lost teeth by then, thanks to a new drug that's about to enter human trials.

The medicine quite literally regrows teeth and was developed by a team of Japanese researchers, as reported by New Atlas. The research has been led by Katsu Takahashi, head of dentistry and oral surgery at Kitano Hospital. The intravenous drug deactivates the uterine sensitization-associated gene-1 (USAG-1) protein that suppresses tooth growth. Blocking USAG-1 from interacting with other proteins triggers bone growth and, voila, you got yourself some brand-new chompers. Pretty cool, right?

Human trials start in September, but the drug has been highly successful when treating ferrets and mice and did its job with no serious side effects. Of course, the usual caveat applies. Humans are not mice or ferrets, though researchers seem confident that it’ll work on homo sapiens. This is due to a 97 percent similarity in how the USAG-1 protein works when comparing humans to other species.

September’s clinical trial will include adults who are missing at least one molar but there’s a secondary trial coming aimed at children aged two to seven. The kids in the second trial will all be missing at least four teeth due to congenital tooth deficiency. Finally, a third trial will focus on older adults who are missing “one to five permanent teeth due to environmental factors.”

Takahashi and his fellow researchers are so optimistic about this drug that they predict the medicine will be available for everyday consumers by 2030. So in six years we can throw our toothbrushes away and eat candy bars all day and all night without a care in the world (don’t actually do that.)

While this is the first drug that can fully regrow missing teeth, the science behind it builds on top of years of related research. Takahashi, after all, has been working on this since 2005. Recent advancements in the field include regenerative tooth fillings to repair diseased teeth and stem cell technology to regrow the dental tissue of children.