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Baldness hope as birds get teeth

70 million years ago, Archaeopteryx had a full beak of teeth.

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LONDON, England -- Scientists have grown chicken embryos with teeth which may lead to a breakthrough against baldness.

The experiment suggests that a gene that causes teeth or hair growth, inactive in birds for 70 million years, could also be rekindled in humans in the future.

The team of French and British researchers released their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cells were transplanted from mice into the chicken embryos -- called chimeras.

"Basically, this tells you that the bird still has the genetic information required to initiate tooth development, if their are cells capable of responding to it," Professor Sharpe, from King's College, London, told The Times newspaper Wednesday.

If scientists can identify and understand the gene which controls hair and teeth in humans, drugs could be developed to create hair follicles, combating baldness which effects 75 percent of men by the age of 40.

Sharpe says there is a long way to go in understanding the genetic code, although he has grown mouse teeth from stem cells in his laboratory.

He hopes to begin teeth replacement trials in the next five years, according to The Times.

Modern birds are descendents of the Archaeopteryx, which dates back to up to 150 million years.

Its beak was bearded with a full set of conical teeth.

However, its feathers, wings, "wishbone" and claws are all characteristics of modern birds.

The DNA that disappeared with the extinction of the Archaeopteryx lived on in the genetic blueprint of the avian family.

The new discovery may be especially powerful in France where the equivalent of "when pigs might fly" is "when hens have teeth."

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