Thursday, February 26

Chew on This

Do you hate the dentist? - well their days may be numbered. Identification of a gene responsible for the production of tooth enamel might eliminate the need for fillings or dentures. OK - so this doesn't mean that there won't be any more dentists, but painful fillings and oral surgery could become a thing of the past (as well as dentures, at least as we know them today).

Researchers at Oregon University recently discovered a new function for a known gene, Ctip2, previously identified as a factor in immune responses and skin and nerve development. The new research shows that Ctip2 also plays a role in the production of tooth enamel. Mice engineered to lack Ctip2 can only form soft, rudimentary teeth, lack- ing a tough enamel coating.

Researchers believe a better understanding of the gene may lead to the repair of damaged enamel and tooth restoration, and even the production of "real" replacement teeth. Previous work has enabled the production of the soft, inner portions of teeth (using stem cells), but until now, researchers lacked knowledge of the genetic factors responsible for enamel production. Also of significance, researchers can now begin to study the process(es) involved in the production of enamel, one of the strongest coatings found in nature, knowledge of which may lead to the development of new synthetic compounds.

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