To fight tooth decay, a gene and a waterless toothbrush

Scientists identified a genetic mutation behind weak enamel. By harvesting the protein produced by normal copies of the gene, we might be able to reactive enamel production in adults.

The thing about enamel is that it doesn’t grow back. That’s because the cells that produce it, ameloblasts, retire once enamel has fully covered our mature teeth. Once it’s damaged, cavities form when bacteria attack deep down layers.

Researchers from the University of Manchester scanned the genomes of people from the same family who share a genetic disorder called amelogenesis imperfecta (AI), which results in weak enamel.

They also scanned the genomes of family members without the condition, and then compared it all with 952 DNA samples from unrelated people.

  • Family members with AI had a mutation on both copies of the gene FAM20A.
  • Unaffected family members have only one copy of the mutated gene.
  • None of the DNA samples from unrelated people had the mutation.

In further support of how the gene plays a role in enamel production, mice with a normal version of FAM20A were expressing the gene throughout their teeth and at particularly high rates when ameloblasts were maturing.

Soon, scientists could isolate the proteins produced by FAM20A and reactive the ameloblasts on damaged teeth.

Via New Scientist. The study was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics this month.

For now, keep that enamel on with diligent tooth care… perhaps with this new on-the-go, disposable, waterless toothbrush.

With KPK Products’s bresh (pictured above), you push on the flexible cap and toothpaste flows into the bristles. The non-fluoride toothpaste contains Xylitol – a sugar substitute naturally found in plants that starves bacteria and eliminates acidic byproducts.

Image: KPK Products

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