Dentist welcomes new ‘tooth re-growth’ gene

A dental charity boss has welcomed news that scientists believe they’ve found a new gene that will enable the re-growth of teeth.

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF), Dr Nigel Carter, said: ‘It is early days and the science must back up the promise before we get too excited, but any research which sets out to improve oral health is to be welcomed.’

US researchers have discovered that the gene – called Ctip2 – can control the growth of tooth enamel.

This is already known to have functions in developing the immune and nervous systems, as well in the growing of skin. It now appears that the gene could lead to the repair of damaged enamel, and the restoration, or ultimately the production, of teeth.

This breakthrough was discovered by a team at the University of Oregon who bred mice that lacked the Ctip2 gene. The teeth in these mice developed without an enamel covering, proving the gene to be crucial for enamel-producing cells to form and work properly.

This may mean that new dental treatments could heal decayed teeth with a new layer of enamel.
The BDHF’s Dr Carter added: ‘Should the science come to fruition, it is still vital that prevention is the first port of call for good oral health.

Repair of enamel could well prove to be an important strand for dentistry in the future. Until then we will continue to promote the message of a good oral health routine to prevent erosion and decay.’

Professor Paul Sharpe, a tooth development expert from Kings College, London, also commenting on the discovery, said: ‘People have been trying for many years to grow ameloblasts, the cells that organise enamel formation.

‘They are highly specialised, polarised, non-dividing epithelial cells and they cannot be grown in culture. Understanding more of the genes that are involved in ameloblast formation and function might in theory help to engineer cells to make enamel, but is important to remember that enamel is an incredibly complex and unique structure.’

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