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Scientists identify key protein in dental enamel formation

Scientists at The Forsyth Institute have isolated a protein that plays a key role in the development of dental enamel, a discovery they say may lead to new biological methods for repairing teeth and other mineralized tissues.

Dental enamel, the hardest tissue in the human body, is composed mainly of calcium phosphate mineral crystals organized into parallel bundles called rods. The structure and organization of the crystals gives enamel both strength and durability.

In new research, Forsyth scientists identified the protein amelogenin as a key component in regulating the organization and growth of enamel crystals.

"We also determined the newly-forming enamel structure emerges as a result of cooperative interactions between forming crystals and assembling proteins, rather than sequentially, as in the formation of other mineralized tissues such as bone and dentin," explained Elia Beniash, Ph.D., staff scientist at The Forsyth Institute.

In addition to being an important step in understanding enamel formation and developing techniques to repair it, the identification of amelogenin may also lead to new developments in biomimetic, nano-structured materials, the Forsyth scientists said. Biomimetic materials are manufactured materials whose design and functional properties are modeled on biological systems while nano-structured materials are fabricated at the sub-micron level.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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