Enamel, located on the outer part of our teeth, is the hardest tissue in the body and enables our teeth to function for a large part of our lifetime despite biting forces, exposure to acidic foods and drinks and extreme temperatures. This remarkable performance results from its highly organised structure.
However, unlike other tissues of the body, enamel cannot regenerate once it is lost, which can lead to pain and tooth loss. These problems affect more than 50 percent of the world’s population and so finding ways to recreate enamel has long been a major need in dentistry.
this new approach can create materials with remarkable precision and order that look and behave like dental enamel.
The materials could be used for a wide variety of dental complications such as the prevention and treatment of tooth decay or tooth sensitivity – also known as dentin hypersensitivity.
Simple and versatile
Dr Sherif Elsharkawy, a dentist and first author of the study from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, said: “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.”
The mechanism that has been developed is based on a specific protein material that is able to trigger and guide the growth of apatite nanocrystals at multiple scales – similarly to how these crystals grow when dental enamel develops in our body. This structural organization is critical for the outstanding physical properties exhibited by natural dental enamel.
Lead author Professor Alvaro Mata, also from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, said: “A major goal in materials science is to learn from nature to develop useful materials based on the precise control of molecular building-blocks. 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.”
Mimic other hard tissues
Enabling control of the mineralization process opens the possibility to create materials with properties that mimic different hard tissues beyond enamel such as bone and dentin. As such, the work has the potential to be used in a variety of applications in regenerative medicine. In addition, the study also provides insights into the role of protein disorder in human physiology and pathology.
The research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant (STROFUNSCAFF) and the Marie Curie Integration Grant (BIOMORPH).
A major goal in materials science is to develop bioinspired functional materials based on the precise control of molecular building blocks across length scales. Here we report a protein-mediated mineralization process that takes advantage of disorder–order interplay using elastin-like recombinamers to program organic–inorganic interactions into hierarchically ordered mineralized structures. The materials comprise elongated apatite nanocrystals that are aligned and organized into microscopic prisms, which grow together into spherulite-like structures hundreds of micrometers in diameter that come together to fill macroscopic areas. The structures can be grown over large uneven surfaces and native tissues as acid-resistant membranes or coatings with tuneable hierarchy, stiffness, and hardness. Our study represents a potential strategy for complex materials design that may open opportunities for hard tissue repair and provide insights into the role of molecular disorder in human physiology and pathology.
By – Brian Wang Nextbigfuture
Source – Nature Communications, Queen Mary University of London
Other regeneration of teeth and bone articles at nextbigfuture
In Feb 2018, Paul Sharpe, a bioengineer at King’s College London, and his colleagues discovered a new way regenerate teeth in mice. They have made even more progress that edges this experimental procedure closer to human clinical trials.
They drilled holes into the molars of mice, mimicking cavities. They then soaked tiny collagen sponges in various drugs known to stimulate Wnt signaling, including tideglusib, a compound that has been investigated in clinical trials for its potential to treat Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders. The scientists then placed these drug-soaked sponges in the drilled mouse molars, sealed them up and left them for four to six weeks. The teeth treated with these drugs produced significantly more dentin than ones untreated or stuffed with an unsoaked sponge or typical dental fillers. In most cases they restored the mice teeth completely.