Growing teeth with urine is just one of the strange uses that your pee can be put to, though the teeth might not be up to chewing steak with. Four other uses are as fuel, as medicine, as compost, and as water.
Though teeth can be grown using urine, there are a couple of catches to doing so. Don’t worry; none of the catches includes gargling urine — though, some people swear by it and gargle with urine and/or drink their own urine on a daily basis.
Chinese scientists have successfully used cells found in human urine to regrow teeth; however, the scientists grew them in, of all things, mouse kidneys.
Duanqing Pei at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou led a team of researchers investigating uses of urine. They converted cells collected from urine and then converted them into a type of stem cells called pluripotent stem cells. This type of stem cells can become any kind of cell in the human body.
These stem cells were then combined with dental tissue from mouse embryos. After that, the cells were implanted into mouse kidneys.
Were the teeth grown from the stem cells usable?
The actual growing of the stem cells and the converting of them into teeth took a relatively short period of time. It took several days to incubate the stem cells, but then just three weeks to grow them into the teeth. This use of urine was published July 30 in the journal Cell Regeneration.
The entire process took just a few weeks: several days to incubate the stem cells, and then three weeks to grow them in the kidneys, according to the study, published July 30 in the journal Cell Regeneration.
The teeth that were grown, though, weren’t what might be called normal teeth. They were soft and misshapen, probably even less useful than George Washington’s fictional wooden teeth, and they were not actually attached to a person’s jaw.
Also, though urine can be used to grow teeth, according to University College London stem cell biologist Chris Mason< in an interview with the BBC, it’s not the best source for the required cells:
[Urine]…is probably one of the worst sources [for teeth]—there are very few cells in the first place and the efficiency of turning them into stem cells is very low.”
Also, it’s one thing to grow teeth, individually, unattached to a jaw, and it’s a different thing altogether to grow teeth that would actually be strong enough to work when put to the task of chewing, grinding, and eating various sorts of food. For the teeth to work, they’d have to be integrated into the gum’s “pulp” of nerves and blood vessels. Doing this, according to Mason, would be a “big challenge.”
What about other uses that human urine can be put to? There are many other uses which you can put the “liquid gold” to, which you literally flush down the toilet every day.
for instance, you can use urine like a group of three schoolgirls did in 2012 in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, at the Maker Faire for innovators and create a backup generator which can be ran using pee as the fuel source.
The device uses an electrolytic cell which breaks down the molecules found in urine and extracts pure hydrogen from them.
Then, the hydrogen is passed through a cylinder of borax to remove any moisture. After this, it is fed into the generator. To reduce explosion risks from the hydrogen, the girls used one-way valves. Up to six hours of electricity can be produced from one liter of urine.
Also, other scientists from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have also been conducting research into using urine as a means of producing electricity. They used microbes to break down the molecules in pee and produce the electricity.
Yet another use of urine is as a type of medicine. Researchers discovered when they analyzed the urine of menopausal women, they could extract from it an important and lucrative medication for infertility.
A woman’s ovaries, as she approaches menopause, start to not respond to the hormones that have guided them for decades. As a result, the pituitary gland responds by secreting even more hormones, such as follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. This hormone stimulates eggs to mature in the ovaries.
In infertile women, levels of these hormones are often low. This fact gave scientists the brilliant idea to gather urine from perimenopausal women to extract and purify the precious hormones. The infertility drugs Menopur and Pergonal were created with the use of these hormones found in the women’s urine.
Pee can also be used to improve the quality of your compost.
Researchers, when they combined compost with human urine, found that they had created a fertilizer that is superior to compost alone. The extra nitrogen from the urine, which helps to boost plants’ growth, seems to be the main factor that makes compost using urine better than regular compost at growing plants.
While human urine as a compost ingredient isn’t as powerful as commercial fertilizers, on the plus side it is freely available and it’s a potentially more cost-effective and environmentally friendly fertilizer.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, some people actually also use their own urine as a water source. People in some countries have been drinking urine for thousands of years, often for health reasons — but now, like in the science fiction book by Frank Herbert, Dune — NASA has developed a new filtration system to turn human wastewater like sweat and urine into potable drinking water.
>NASA calls their invention to convert pee into potable water, the “Forward Osmosis Bag,” or FOB. It was designed to give astronauts an extra source of drinking water in space.
The FOB can be used outside of zero gravity on the Earth, though, as well. If the technology is scaled up and FOBs were mass-produced, one day they might help create additional drinking water around the globe — all because of something as common as your own urine, and the ingenuity of NASA researchers.
Urine is, as scientists and researchers are discovering, a very versatile bodily fluid, indeed. Growing teeth is just one use of pee. You might think twice before the next time that you flush the toilet, about the wasteful way you’re wasting a valuable…waste product.
Written by: Douglas Cobb