What do an alligator and its mighty bite have to do with tooth regeneration?
The genetics of an alligator’s teeth may help scientists learn how to stimulate tooth regeneration in people, according to new research led by the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
“Humans naturally only have two sets of teeth – baby teeth and adult teeth,” said Professor Cheng-Ming Chuong. “Ultimately, we want to identify stem cells that can be used as a resource to stimulate tooth renewal in adult humans who have lost teeth. But, to do that, we must first understand how they renew in other animals and why they stop in people.”
Entering the alligator’s smile
According to one of the authors of the study, Ping Wu, alligators have 80 teeth and can be rejuvenated up to 50 times over their lifetime, making them the appropriate model for mammalian tooth replacement. To add on, Chuong uncovered “unique cellular and molecular mechanisms behind tooth renewal in American alligators.”
Each alligator tooth has three components: a functional tooth, a replacement tooth, and the dental lamina. These components are structured to transition from dislodgment of the mature tooth to replacement of the new tooth. The researchers concluded that the dental lamina appears to contain stem cells from which new replacement teeth develop.
“Stem cells divide more slowly than other cells,” said co-author Randall B. Widelitz, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology at the Keck School of Medicine. “The cells in the alligator’s dental lamina behaved like we would expect stem cells to behave. In the future, we hope to isolate those cells from the dental lamina to see whether we can use them to regenerate teeth in the lab.”
In the meantime…
This is truly a magnificent discovery and could entirely change the field of dentistry to recover natural teeth that was previously lost. However, more research needs to be conducted to make this discovery a reality.
In the meantime, there are multiple dental treatments that can fill in the gaps left behind from missing teeth. As leading cosmetic dentist in Mukilteo, Dr. Kris Johnson can help recover your smile with the following services:
- Dental implants
Give us a call today to schedule your personal consultation with Dr. Johnson.