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Building on two decades of research, scientists from Kyoto University are now developing a drug that could regrow teeth.

Their work began in 2006, when a team led by molecular biologist Katsu Takahashi was investigating kidney disease in mice missing the USAG-1 protein, which inhibits bone and cartilage development. The modified mice ended up healthy (and resistant to kidney injury), but they had a few too many teeth. Upon further investigation, the researchers discovered that USAG-1 regulates tooth growth in mice, and removing it allowed additional teeth to form.

By 2020, they had created an antibody that neutralizes USAG-1 locally. The antibody not only “rescued” tooth development in mice with congenital tooth deficiency but also stimulated new tooth growth in genetically normal mice, as well as in ferrets and dogs.

Takahashi has now founded a startup, Toregem Biopharma, which plans to develop this antibody into a drug for humans. The first human trial, set to begin in September, will test the antibody on middle-aged men missing a molar. If the drug is safe for humans, it will be tested for efficacy on children with congenital tooth deficiency.

According to the Japanese newspaper The Mainichi, the company hopes to bring the drug to market as soon as 2030.


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