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Enamel Gene

March 19, 2009

Scientists have identified a gene that controls the production of tooth enamel.


A genetic gift to dentistry. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When tooth enamel decays, it’s gone for good. But a new discovery could eventually change that. Scientists in Oregon and France have identified a protein, called Ctip2, that controls the production of tooth enamel. Oregon State University pharmacologist Mark Leid says that mice that lack the gene for Ctip2 had known problems with their skin, nerves, and immune system.

MARK LEID (Oregon State University):
And then more recently, // we actually observed that these mice, // in which we delete this gene, have kind of funky teeth. And we realized that they weren’t making the cells that were necessary for the secretion of enamel. (:15, after edits)

It’s hoped that the gene could someday be tweaked to grow replacement enamel — either in the lab, or right in your mouth. Engineers are also interested, since enamel is one of nature’s toughest materials. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.