Changing Planet

Growing Teeth and Four More Odd Uses for Urine

For those who’ve lost their teeth to accidents and decay, there may be a new way to restore your pearly whites: urine.  

Scientists in China have successfully used cells found in human urine to regrow teeth. If that’s not enough of an ick factor, the scientists grew the teeth in mouse kidneys.

Hirenbhai Bheda displays a wall clock that runs on cow urine in Luni, India, on June 5. Photograph by Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

The researchers, led by Duanqing Pei at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, converted cells collected from urine into what’s called pluripotent stem cells, which can become any kind of cell in the body. These stem cells were then mixed with dental tissue from mouse embryos and implanted into mouse kidneys. (Read more about stem cells.)

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.

These were not, however, normal teeth. They were probably even less useful than George Washington’s mythical wooden dentures, given that the teeth were soft and misshapen and not actually, you know, attached to a person’s jaw.

In an interview with the BBC, University College London stem cell biologist Chris Mason said 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.” (Explore a human-body interactive.)

And for the teeth to work, they’d have to be integrated into the gum’s “pulp” of nerves and blood vessels, which would be a “big challenge,” Mason said.

Though human urine hasn’t yet unemployed the tooth fairy, other researchers have come up with some surprising and creative ways to reuse the liters of liquid gold each of us create every day.

Urine as Fuel

At the 2012 Maker Faire for innovators in Lagos, Nigeria, a group of three schoolgirls created a backup generator that could run on human urine. The device uses an electrolytic cell to break down the molecules found in urine and extract pure hydrogen. (Also see “Urine Battery Turns Pee Into Power.”)

The hydrogen is passed through a cylinder of borax to remove any moisture, and then delivered to the generator. The girls used one-way valves to reduce any explosion risks from the hydrogen. One liter of urine can produce up to six hours of electricity.

Other scientists from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have also been investigating urine fuel cells, only they used microbes to break down the molecules in urine and produce the electricity.

Urine as Medication

Peeing into a cup generally yields a diagnosis, not a pharmaceutical. But when researchers analyzed the urine of menopausal women, they realized they could extract an important—and potentially lucrative—medication for infertility.

As a woman approaches menopause, her ovaries start to become deaf to the monthly siren calls of hormones. The pituitary gland responds by secreting even more hormones, such as follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, which stimulate eggs to mature in the ovary.

Levels of these hormones are often low in infertile women, which gave scientists the brilliant idea to gather urine from perimenopausal women to extract and purify the precious hormones. Thus was born the infertility drugs Menopur and Pergonal.

Urine as Compost

When researchers combined compost with human urine, they found they had created a fertilizer that is superior to compost alone. The trick appears to be the extra nitrogen from the urine, which helps to boost plants’ growth.

Although it isn’t as powerful as commercial fertilizers, urine is freely available and a potentially more cost-effective and environmentally friendly fertilizer. (Related: “Human Pee Added to Compost Boosts Crops.”)

Urine as Water

People have been drinking urine for millennia, often for health reasons. But NASA has developed a new filtration system to turn human wastewater like sweat and urine into potable drinking water. The Forward Osmosis Bag (FOB) was designed to give astronauts an extra source of drinking water in space. The FOB, however, can be used outside of zero gravity and, if the technology is scaled up, may help create additional drinking water around the globe.

These ideas are not, of course, the only ways urine can be used—people are inventing new things every day. Even my cat has gotten in on the game, creating inventive works of art on my rug after an inadvertent change of kitty litter brands.

What ideas do you have for using urine?

Carrie is a freelance science writer living in Virginia. When she's not writing about cool critters, she's spending time outside, drinking coffee, or knitting. You can visit her website at
  • Tom Key

    Hair conditioner. Tribespeople living in arid regions from the Altiplano of Sur America to Tibet and Saudia Arabia have long used urine to wash out their hair. Makes it shiny and gets the dust and dirt out.

  • Sal Tomy

    Urine can be used to cure eye infection.

  • Joe Herman

    Try urinating on athlete’s foot. Urine kills that kind and similar kinds of fungus.

  • Ivonne

    Try cleaning your house? Mop your floors with urine.. I heard it leave the, shiny!!!

  • Cosmin

    Yellow snow drawings and ice cream.

  • Rodney

    Urine can also cure purples Pimples if u urine on your hand & wash your face with it!!!

  • Thomas Vogler

    Flush it down the Toilet. This article is disgusting.

  • steve sinclair

    Urine can neutralize jellyfish stings

  • mostafa abdel raheem

    Arabs were using urine from ancient times and has many uses, especially camel urine

  • bryan joyce

    whist in the army patrolling the jungle,at the end of the day we took our boot and socks off urinated on our feet and when they dried put boots back on. never suffered from tinea

  • Wendy

    I used urine for Hyroid & jellyfish’s sting if no other alternative like Vinegar is available. In fact, it can be used for most sting that I encountered.

  • Monica Walker

    Of course you all know how soothing it is on blue bottle and jelly fish stings …


    urine has proved to working even when one has fits ,by a mixture of traditional herbs .

  • Christine Dell’Amore

    These are some interesting ideas—has anyone actually tested any of them?

  • Yandy Reyes

    The only reason this sounds digusting to some ppl is because we have been conditioned to this our waste is so nasty. If we grew up thinking of it as usable and useful, it would not be wasted and would even be sold in markets (if widespread enough). So come one ppl, please be a little open-minded of the possible benefits involved.

  • Carl Torres

    Romans used urine to whiten their teeth…

  • Carl Torres

    Romans used urine to whiten their teeth… and if your read the ingredients carefully in teeth whitening kits, you’ll see “urea” and uric acid…

  • Carl Torres

    Teeth whitening kits have the ingredients “urea” and “uric acid”. Romans used urine to whiten teeth. Coincidence?

  • Dominic Dominion-paul

    Urine and Zobo(look for zobo botname cures toothache and can help you manage broken infected tooth again like molars by killing the infection and growing the teeth at the base for use.Urine is good for regrowing baldhead of new hairs.Urine is good.

  • Alex mugwira

    woow!iam suprised to learn dat something dat seemed disgusting can turn to gold!

  • stephen dias

    Dear Sir,

    I agree with you that Urine does lost of miracles but very few people make use of it. There was one great politician in early years was drinking urine and he could probably survive for more than 90 years. What this gentlemen say that his granny was carrying and growing some plants from her urine i agree totally because I myself do at the age of 65 years and my plant is growing well an giving fruits also ,better than my neighbor place of the same kind of tree and gown at the same time. Whereas her tree does not give anything since they do not feed this tree with their urine. One thing for certain that many ailments projected by this author or gentleman may not be correct. I am not sure whether this man drink urine , and if it so why his eye sight is not corrected with urine. He uses spectacles below his eye since his vision is bad. That means Urine has not given him that much power.( if he drinks his own urine only).

    Stephen Dias

  • Bono Lou

    as a young girl I often had a rake. My grandmother would have my pee in a cup and she would drop with a cotton ball while it was warm drops of urine and my ear with a cotton ball and have me lay down and my ear ache would go away and minutes. It was disgusting but the pain and the results were worth it.

  • dr.harshal patil

    Human urine
    In Ayurvedic system of medicine its called Swambu chikitsa.
    for details refer indian system of medicine.

  • Taylor

    Damn shame we waste so much urine and water, flushing it away, when we could be doing a lot more useful things with it/

  • Christiane Cloutier

    Hi, to those who don’t know about urine ‘therapy’, you might go and read about it… it’s all over the internet, and even today, in 2017… almost everybody knows about it miraculous benefits… and doctors all over the world are using it… anyway, i use it since 1989 and i can garantee you that IT REALLY WORKS for all kinds of things… even AIDS, psoriasis, lung cancer (for me), IF YOU DRINK IT, YOU WILL BE CURED… but STOP laughing about this… one day soon… YOU WILL BE DOING IT TOO… because… DRINK IT OR RUB IT… AND YOU WILL BELIEVE IT TOO ! So… thank you all…

  • Amira

    Tom Key,
    Not sure about Saudis washing their hair with urine. I am not saying it does not work but for Muslims, human urine is accepted to use ONLY under extreme measures when one has no other way to heal a disease that threatening them. It can NOT be a cosmetic! Camel urine is a more accepted urine but here again it is not used as a cosmetic but to beat a disease.
    While researching UT, I did find people on the internet using urine for hair and beauty but most are in the West.

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