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Tech Update - Scientists Grow Teeth in The Laboratories

Aug 17, 2007
It is amazing what science can do these days. You have probably seen people with artificial limbs, known or heard of someone who has had breast implants or cosmetic surgery or you may have even read about the successful cloning of Dolly, the British sheep!

Scientists are also working to find breakthroughs that will change the face of dentistry. Discoveries over the past year could lead to the ability to grow teeth!

Scientists at the University of Texas-Houston Dental Branch and the Baylor College of Medicine have discovered why three generations in one family were born without a full set of first and second molars. After reviewing their DNA (the blueprints for the body genetic makeup) the problem was narrowed down to one particular gene (PAX9). When a mutation of this gene occurs, people are born without a full set of teeth.

As many as 20 percent of the population do not have a full set of first and second molars because of this problem. Now that researchers know what happens when PAX9 mutates, they have an opportunity to better understand the genetics of tooth development and possibly replicate the process of growing new teeth.

But PAX9 is not the only tooth-related genetic discovery that scientistsGel to enhance tooth growth have revealed in the past few months. A gene called BARX-1 has been found to control the growth of teeth. In the next 10 or 20 years, we may be able to apply a gel to the gums or a tooth to stimulate tooth repair and growth.

Imagine having a special solution painted on your tooth to repair a cavity instead of having a filling. Imagine the difference between having no tooth and a newly grown tooth in a matter of weeks, thanks to this innovation! It sounds far-fetched, but growing new teeth is within the realms of possibility in the next decade.

Scientists at the University of South California, Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, have been analyzing tooth enamel for 20 years. "Why?" you may ask. Their goal is to be able to offer fillings that most closely resemble enamel, rather than using silver, gold or resin materials.

Last summer, the researchers identified tiny spheres, which regulate how enamel forms. For now, the strength of enamel can not be replicated in a laboratory, but they understand how nature makes it. With time, synthetic enamel should be another option we can offer!

Researchers say there are many more genes affecting tooth formation that they have not even discovered yet. Before long, there will be unlimited ways to improve your dental health and make the most of your smile.
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