Gene controls formation of tooth enamel
A team of researchers have pin-pointed the gene which controls the production of tooth enamel in mice, called Ctip2.
When the gene had been ‘knocked out’ in mice, so it no longer functioned, their teeth lacked adequate enamel coating to protect them. They believe the Ctip2 gene controls cells called ameloblasts, involved in the formation and growth of cells that secrete enamel.
The gene has been previously identified as having a role in immune function and development of the nervous system. However, its role in the production of tooth enamel is a new discovery, and could lead to new possibilities in dentistry, including repairing damaged enamel and preventing cavities.
The inner portions of teeth have already been grown using stem cells, but due to lack of enamel they were very fragile. This new discovery raises the possibility that in the future it will be possible to ‘grow’ whole teeth in a laboratory as an alternative to false teeth.