Something fishy about tooth research

One of the world’s most poisonous fish species could hold the key to engineering tooth regeneration in humans.

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have discovered that the pufferfish generates new teeth every two weeks in a unique process that causes the formation of its beak.

The beak does not appear during embryonic development, but rather originates from the modified development of replacement teeth after the formation of the initial dentition. After the first generation of teeth is produced, the expression of the responsible gene changes.

Tooth development in the fish has remained unchanged for millions of years, which scientists hope will help explain how and why the process has evolved differently in humans.

Dr Gareth Fraser, who led the project, said: ‘It is of great interest for science to understand the process of tooth replacement; to understand the genes that govern the continued supply of teeth and mechanisms of dental stem cell maintenance.

”As humans only replace their teeth once, fish – and pufferfish in particular – can be looked at as a new model to help us to answer questions like how continuous tooth replacement programmes are maintained throughout life. This would help our understanding of why humans have lost this replacement potential, and furthermore, how can we use knowledge of the genetic underpinnings of tooth replacement in fishes to facilitate advances in dental therapies.“

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