Researchers have found a network of dental genes in species of fish that may have been involved in the construction of the first tooth approximately half a billion years ago.
While the discovery may seem to only cater to scientists, senior author of the study Dr. Todd Streelman said the new finding may help create a new dental care technique to coax diseased teeth back to health without the help of a traditional hand-held drill.
"If we could learn to selectively restore these traits in the dentist's office, it would mark a major step forward in helping people protect and repair their teeth. I think this gene network provides a nice evolutionary clue on how best to proceed," Streelman said.
The findings were published in PLoS Biology and relate to a previous study involving the fish species cichlid in Lake Malawi in Africa.
Last year Gareth Fraser, a postdoctoral fellow in the Streelman laboratory, described a gene network that seemed to control the patterning of tooth size, number, and spacing in Lake Malawi cichlids. That network led to the question of whether the tooth number in cichlids were regulated in the same manner.
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