Editors' ChoiceBioengineering

Stopping the Drilling and the Filling: Regenerating Teeth with Soluble Human Tooth Proteins

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Science Translational Medicine  03 Nov 2010:
Vol. 2, Issue 56, pp. 56ec170
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001853

We take it for granted that our teeth are nigh indestructible, able to crunch and pulverize our food with nary a scratch. However, our teeth are susceptible to tiny bacteria that over time can erode the tough outer layer (enamel) of our teeth, leading to cavities. Although this problem is well known by the public, many people dread visiting the dentist to maintain their teeth, fearing a need to drill and fill any detected cavities. This aversion has motivated researchers to develop methods to regenerate tooth enamel and to supplant the need for cavity fillings. However, there still remains a great deal not known about the composition of teeth, especially regarding potential latent stimulating factors within the tooth itself. Chun et al. addressed this issue with a two-pronged translational approach. First, they attempted to characterize which proteins are found in a human tooth, and, second, they tried to see whether these proteins could stimulate tooth regeneration.

To better characterize all of the proteins that make up a human tooth (called the “proteome” of the tooth), Chun et al. extracted ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)–soluble tooth proteins (ESTPs) and analyzed them by using liquid chromatography–mass spectroscopy. This analysis revealed that the ESTPs were composed of 118 proteins with known biological roles (e.g., tissue growth, metabolism, etc.) and 29 proteins previously undiscovered in teeth with unknown biological roles. Chun et al. then examined the effect of these ESTPs on teeth. In a mouse model, ESTPs stimulated dental pulp stem cells to form dentin, an important tooth material, as well as dictated the formation of implanted embryonic tooth buds. Thus, this research not only potentially improves the knowledge of the tooth, but also may lead to new treatments to regenerate teeth, helping to put an end to the dreaded “drill and fill” once and for all.

S. Y. Chun et al., Analysis of the soluble human tooth proteome and its ability to induce dentin/tooth regeneration. Tissue Eng. Part A. 12 October 2010 (10.1089/ten.tea.2010.0121). [Abstract]

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