updated 10/15/2003 6:04:17 PM ET 2003-10-15T22:04:17

A team of scientists grew accurate versions of natural teeth in a laboratory, raising the possibility of an eventual replacement for manmade implants such as dentures, bridges and crowns. The scientists, based at Forsyth Institute, were reportedly the first to grow such a complex tooth structure from a collection of individual cells.

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“This is very exciting, and I don’t think it’s expected,” said R. Bruce Donoff, dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

Researchers said it would be at least a decade before the technique could be used to help patients.

The results appear in the October issue of the Journal of Dental Research.

The Forsyth scientists manipulated pigs’ dental stem cells — primordial cells that differentiate into the various tooth structures — to make enamel, which gives teeth their distinctive, hard exterior.

The next goal was to grow tooth roots, said Pamela C. Yelick, who led the project.

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