Health

OSU Makes Breakthrough In Tooth Genetics

OPB | Feb. 24, 2009 5:56 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:12 a.m. | Portland, OR

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By Rob Manning

Researchers at Oregon State University’s College of Pharmacy say they’ve solved the genetic riddle of how teeth get their protective coating of enamel.

OSU’s discovery has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Pharmacology professor, Mark Leid (LEED), says the genetic discovery is a breakthrough.

He says biologically engineered teeth - made of the same material as real teeth - have been in development for some time. But he says they've always lacked protective enamel. Leid says OSU's discovery makes that next step possible.

Mark Leid: “Where we’re tryng to take it is to make a bio-engineered tooth - taking advantage of the information we have from this discovery, to make a better teeth, basically. We want to make a tooth that is both tougher, and is more resistant to acid, for example, which is the main cause of tooth decay."

Leid says it could be about five years before the enamel discovery translates into a widely available tooth.

Leid says there’s another discovery a little further off. O-S-U researchers are using stem cells to look into genetic treatments for teeth. A discovery in that area could save the teeth you have, rather than make better replacements.

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