birds with teeth: one step closer to rats with wings

Birds with teeth turn the clock back 70m years

A batch of chicken embryos raised at a French laboratory have been coaxed into growing rudimentary teeth, after researchers managed to re-awaken a gene that has lain dormant in birds for at least 70 million years. [...]

Although no modern birds have teeth, their ancestors once boasted beaks bristling with incisors. The teeth sported 147 million years ago by the Archaeopteryx, the first bird known to science, disappeared from its descendants between 70 and 80 million years ago. The DNA that triggers tooth growth did not disappear completely, but instead lingered uselessly in the avian genetic blueprint.

A team led by Josiane Fontaine-Perus, of the University of Nantes, has managed to switch this genetic signal back on. In the experiment, which also involved Paul Sharpe, Professor of Craniofacial Development at King's College London, and other French researchers, a few mouse cells were transplanted into chicken embryos to create hybrids known as chimeras. Whereas chicken cells are incapable of deciphering genetic messages telling them to turn into teeth, mouse cells are receptive to them. They migrated to the correct place in the jaw, and the chicken embryos, which were otherwise normal, began to develop teeth.

"The tissue transplant produces cells that contribute to tooth formation," Professor Sharpe said. "Basically, this tells you that the bird still has the genetic information required to initiate tooth development, if there are cells capable of responding to it." [...]

His research team has also managed to grow mouse teeth from stem cells in the laboratory, and he hopes to begin human trials of replacement teeth within five years. [...]

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16 Responses:

  1. yay, bringing back the dinosaurs....all so bald guys can have chance at getting laid again.


    • jwz says:

      Nah, see, this is a perfect example of "how science gets marketed." The scientists are clearly doing this in the name of pure Mad Science -- "fucking hell, man, birds with teeth!" -- but they get articles written, and funding granted, by throwing in some shit about hair growth. You see this all the time.

  2. ivorjawa says:

    I ask for just one thing ... chickens with frickin' FANGS.

  3. So much for "rare as hen's teeth". Next thing you know, they'll be painting the moon blue.

  4. macguyver says:

    Um, but I don't *want* mouse teeth.

  5. Stephen Jay Gould had an essay about a similar experiment about 20 years ago.

  6. violentbloom says:

    great so maybe by the time I need *another* new crown I can just have a mouse tooth instead!

  7. willco says:

    In related news, the ajective phrase, "rare as hen's teeth" has been denoted as 'obsolete' by the North American Cliche Registry.

    The announcement was made following formal proceedings of the linguistic standards body today in Vancouver.

    "Goddamn disruptive technologies," The spokesman was heard to mumble after the press briefing.

  8. I know if I had genetically engineered chickens with teeth there would be pictures all over the place. Chicken with teeth evoke a strong mental image. Yet, there is none. Therefore its fake. QED.

  9. loosechanj says:

    The teeth code is just there because God reused some source. Happens all the time, look at the platypus.

  10. _uriel_ says:

    I just remembered...hehehe
    A good friend of mine (A Pawnee 'Earlier Continental') has an Eagle tattoo. The artist drew TEETH on it, which pissed said big 'I'm not an Indian' off to no end. Guess his tattoo isn't so unique after this...pretty soon everyone will have chicken/teeth tattoos.
    Hell, I think I'll go get one now!

  11. anonymous says:

    Is there a pic of the chicken?
    When somebody finds it, please email to: