Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have developed a new way to grow mineralised materials, which could regenerate lost dental enamel.
Enamel is the hardest tissue in the body and this results from its highly organised structure.
However, enamel cannot regenerate once it is lost, which can lead to pain and tooth loss. This affects more than 50% of the world’s population and finding ways to recreate enamel has long been a major need in dentistry.
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.
Dr Sherif Elsharkawy, first author of the study said: “This is exciting because the simplicity and versatility of the mineralisation platform opens up opportunities to treat and regenerate dental tissues”.
The mechanism that has been developed is based on a specific protein material that is able to trigger and guide the growth of apatite nanocrystals at multiple scales, similar to how these crystals grow when dental enamel develops in our body.
Lead author Prof. Alvaro Mata said: “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”.
Enabling control of the mineralisation process opens up the possibility of creating materials with properties that mimic different hard tissues such as bone and dentin. As such, the work has the potential to be used in a variety of applications in regenerative medicine.