Nature Methods | Methagora

New teeth. Old news?

A paper by Takashi Tsuji and colleagues describing a general method to reconstitute ectodermal organs such as teeth and whiskers has met with criticism by members of the community who claim there is nothing substantively new reported. The development and transplantation of engineered teeth was previously reported but the changes described in the new report, though small, do seem to represent an important advance as attested to by others in the field.

Read the paper by Nakao et al. and some of the press coverage listed below and give us your thoughts.

The Scientist – Teeth, whiskers bioengineered

Chemistry World – Researchers sink their teeth in


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    Jill Helms said:

    I’ve read the paper by Nakao and colleagues with some interest, and frankly, I’m puzzled. If this was supposed to be a novel approach to engineer a tooth then I think it falls short of that ambitious goal. The recombination of dental epithelium and mesenchyme, and then its implantation into the renal capsule to allow further development, is already a recognized part of the literature pertaining to odontogenesis (references are abundant from the 1970’s, 1980’s, and today). The derivatives of the epithelium and mesenchyme, and the origins of the blood vessels have also been thoroughly described by others using cell labeling, transgenic mice, and this system.

    Sometimes I wonder if the inclusion of the words “regeneration” or “stem cell” biases reviewers and editors towards publication of manuscripts that, while beautifully illustrated and carefully executed, nonetheless do not move the field forward in a substantive way.

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    Daniel Evanko said:

    The authors of this paper just recently published a follow-up paper in PNAS at the beginning of August that resulted in a sharp increase in interest in their original paper. The new paper looks quite nice and it is encouraging to see that their method appears to be working quite well.

    When we originally published the paper we were hoping that the simplicity, apparent generality and good performance of the method would be useful for studies of tissue development. The previously published tooth engineering methods at the time used comparatively artificial systems which weren’t as suitable for this. But to the best of my knowledge so far this hasn’t happened.