06 June 2018

Proteins against caries

A method for restoring tooth enamel has been developed

Anna Kerman, XX2 century

A group of scientists from Queen Mary University of London (Queen Mary University of London) was able to develop a material capable of restoring damaged tooth enamel. The results of the study are published in the journal Nature Communications (Elsharkawy et al., Protein disorder–order interplay to guide the growth of hierarchical mineralized structures).

The idea of creating a biomaterial capable of literally healing "holes" in teeth was suggested by nature. Scientists have noticed that many materials of natural origin, for example, bone tissue, have a specific hierarchical structure. The structural elements of such fabrics differ in size and spatial orientation, which gives the material new useful properties.

The formation of mineralized tissues with a hierarchical structure is impossible without biomineralization, a process carried out on organic matrices under strict biological control. Proteins control the "construction" of tissue, determining the spatial orientation of individual elements at the molecular level and participating in the formation of compounds.

Previously, scientists have already managed to reproduce the process of bone mineralization, as well as create materials with a hierarchical structure using chitin matrices for growth. But one of the most urgent tasks in this area was still the creation of artificial tooth enamel, in structure and properties close to its natural counterpart.

To create artificial enamel, different teams of scientists tried to use apatite nanocrystals and various organic matrices, but without success. The authors of the new study decided to use the so-called intrinsically disordered proteins (IDP), which play an important role in intermolecular interactions at the protein–mineral interface.

As a result, the scientists managed to achieve their goal: the mineralization process began to be controlled, leading to the appearance of a properly formed hierarchical structure based on apatite nanocrystals. Experiments have demonstrated that the new material is characterized by hardness and strength, as well as resistance to acidic environments, and, importantly, can be synthesized under various conditions, including on the surface of living tissues.


Of course, the introduction of the new material into clinical practice is still far away, but the authors of the development hope that over time artificial enamel will be used for the regeneration of hard tissues, including in dentistry.

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