Material May Regenerate Dental Enamel

Dentistry Today
Photo by Alvaro Mata.


Photo by Alvaro Mata.

Despite its highly organized structure, dental enamel can’t regenerate once it is lost, leading to pain and tooth loss. Now, researchers at Queen Mary University of London have developed a way to grow mineralized materials that could regenerate enamel and other hard tissues. These materials could be used to prevent and treat tooth decay and dentin hypersensitivity, the researchers reported. 

“This is exciting because the simplicity and versatility of the mineralization platform opens up opportunities to treat and regenerate dental tissues. For example, we could develop acid-resistant bandages that can infiltrate, mineralize, and shield exposed dentinal tubules of human teeth for the treatment of dentin hypersensitivity,” said first author Sherif Elsharkaway, BDS, MSc, PhD, of Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science

The mechanism that has been developed is based on a specific protein material that can trigger and guide the growth of apatite nanocrystals at multiple scales, similar to how these crystals grow when dental enamel develops in the body. This structural organization is critical for the outstanding physical properties exhibited by natural dental enamel, the researchers said. 

“The key discovery has been the possibility to exploit disordered proteins to control and guide the process of mineralization at multiple scales. Through this, we have developed a technique to easily grow synthetic materials that emulate such hierarchically organized architecture over large areas and with the capacity to tune their properties,” said lead author Alvaro Mata, MSc, DEng, of the School of Engineering and Materials Science. 

Enabling control of the mineralization process opens up the possibility of creating materials with properties that mimic different hard tissues beyond enamel such as bone and dentin. As such, the research has the potential to be used in a variety of applications in regenerative medicine, the researchers said. Also, they added, the study provides insights into the role of protein disorder in human physiology and pathology.

The study, “Protein Disorder-Order Interplay to Guide the Growth of Hierarchical Mineralized Structures,” was published by Nature Communications.

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