The future of dental care may well be called Ctip2, the first transcription factor implicated in the specification of ameloblasts (the cells that secrete enamel, the protecting layer around teeth). You can think of ameloblasts as "tooth stem cells", although they are not directly implicated in the formation of teeth themselves, just the tough layer that protects teeth from its environment. Actually deleting the Ctip2 gene in a mouse leads to lethality (the mouse embryo develops and you can see early teeth formation, but the teeth would have never been functional because they never develop a cover of enamel). Ever felt a painful sensation when your teeth are exposed to something very cold? multiply that by 1,000 and that would be life without enamel.
Some years ago a company in Australia developed a modified bacteria that could not secrete the enzymes that lead to tooth decay. The idea was to inoculate this bacteria in your mouth and presto: perfect teeth the rest of your life. It was never commercialized.
So, will we see Ctip2-related treatments in the future? Very likely. Just don't hold your breath.
The Ctip2 work was published in PNAS. A link to the article is not yet available; in the mean time here is a link to the news feed.
Enamel is certainly very important for the animal who is taking most of the nutrition by using teeth. In humans also, when due to certain ailments enamel is lost (even partially) it becomes very difficult to take normal diet. This Ctip2 gene finding may lead the science towards better and healthy teeth for all of us...
How I wish the reaserach to be done faster and sooner. May whole family suffers from tooth decay and enamel problem.
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