The FAM20B gene is necessary for cartilage development. But when it’s selectively removed in mouse models, higher states of mineralization result in enamel, and additional teeth begin to grow, according to the Texas A&M College of Dentistry. Now, researchers there will use a 5-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to explore their work’s implications.
“The supernumerary teeth phenotype was completely a surprise to everybody,” said principal investigator Xiaofang Wang, PhD, MDS. “Clinically, the presence of supernumerary teeth is a bad thing, as they can cause many complications. Scientifically, it is a good thing, because it reminds us that if we figure out the mechanism, we may use it to regenerate teeth and, of course, prevent supernumerary teeth.”
Wang’s lab will use the funding to study the signaling mechanism behind the formation of supernumerary teeth. The researchers hope their findings will advance their understanding of what’s happening at the molecular level in supernumerary tooth formation. They also note that the extracellular components known as proteoglycans that help control signaling in tooth development are present in nearly all tissues, potentially affecting multiple body systems.
“The novel link between proteoglycans and the regulatory signaling cascades that govern tooth formation is very exciting, as it opens a new window for the regulatory mechanism of tooth development,” said Rena D’Souza, DDS, MS, PhD, a collaborator and former biomedical sciences department chair now serving as associate vice provost for research at the University of Utah School of Dentistry.
Due to the complicated nature of the signaling network, Wang doesn’t want to presume that their findings could directly lead to tooth regeneration or the prevention of additional teeth. However, he does note that the findings could enhance their knowledge base in both of these areas.