tumors with teeth

To start with, this is no magic. Tumours with teeth do exist. It occurs in a rather rare kind of tumour called teratoma. This tumour can develop basically into any kind of body tissue or organ including teeth, hair, bone, muscles, eyes etc. Teratomas most commonly occur in the tailbone (coccyx) of newborns and children, ovaries of females or testicles. But finding it else such as the brain is not uncommon.

Teratomas and cancer

Teratomas can be classified as mature (benign) meaning not cancerous. Such can easily be surgically removed but can grow back after surgical removal. Teratomas in newborn babies and children are mostly benign.

Teratomas can also be classified as immature or precancerous. This means they have the ability to grow into fully mature malignant cancer. Ovarian teratoma is mostly benign for women in their reproductive age (from teens to forties) 

There are 2 types of testicular teratomas: pre and post-purbetal. Mature pre-purbetal teratomas are benign while post-purbetal (adult) teratomas are cancerous (malignant)

How do Teratomas come about?

Teratomas originate from the germ cells. Germ cells are cells which develop into gametes (eggs or sperms). Besides, germ cells are pluripotent.  This means they have the ability to differentiate and specialized into any type of body cell. A teratoma results from a complication involving the differentiation and specialization process.  Because of the pluripotent nature of the germ cell, an error in the differentiation or specialization process have the capacity to give rise to any cell, tissue or organ type. Hence, fingers, teeth, brain, eyes, bones, muscles etc. find themselves where they are not meant to be.

Teratomas contain well-differentiated or incompletely differentiated elements of at least two germ cells layers (endoderm, ectoderm and/or mesoderm). Mature teratomas are well differentiated relative to the germ cell layers. Immature teratomas are incompletely differentiated and are similar to foetal or embryonic tissue.

According to Dr. Ricki Lewis, a teratoma typically develops from a wayward sperm or egg that erroneously activated its developmental program only to produce just a tooth or tuft, wrapped in some sort of covering like a California roll. According to her, it can also be a situation whereby a somatic cell escaped from an early embryo that didn’t realize it was no longer a part of the whole. Remnants of a twin might also appear to be a teratoma but isn’t quite the same thing, she added.

Some Real Life Examples of Teratomas

A 25‐year‐old Japanese woman  underwent surgery for an ovarian tumor. A solid mass within the tumor was found to contain a head, trunk, Brain, eye, spinal nerve, ear, teeth, thyroid gland, bone, bone marrow, gut, trachea, blood vessels, and phallic cavernous tissue.

In 2014 a 4-months old infant in Maryland had teeth removed from his brain during surgery from a rare brain tumour.

Another 3 days old baby from Colorado Springs was born with microscopic brain tumour. Doctors removed the growth and found out it contained one fully formed foot, another partial foot and the beginnings of a hand and a thigh.