Scientists develop material that could regenerate dental enamel

Scientists develop material that could regenerate dental enamel

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have developed a new way to grow mineralised materials which could regenerate hard tissues such as dental enamel and bone. The study, published in Nature Communications, shows that this new approach can create materials with remarkable precision and order that look and behave like dental enamel.

Damien Walmsley, the British Dental Association’s scientific adviser, said he was excited by the study. “It shows that potential improvements in dentistry go hand-in-hand with developments in materials science. We look forward to seeing how effective these materials could be in preventing and treating tooth decay.”

Lead author Professor Alvaro Mata, 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 mineralisation at multiple scales. Through this, we have developed a technique to easily grow synthetic materials that emulate such hierarchically organised architecture over large areas and with the capacity to tune their properties."

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 mineralisation platform opens up opportunities to treat and regenerate dental tissues. For example, we could develop acid resistant bandages that can infiltrate, mineralise, and shield exposed dentinal tubules of human teeth for the treatment of dentin hypersensitivity."

Enabling control of the mineralisation 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.

More information: Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/10.1038/s41467-018-04319-0

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