Steps In Tooth Enamel Formation Revealed | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: April 2, 2008

Steps In Tooth Enamel Formation Revealed

Matrix protein plays a critical role in crystallizing hydroxyapatite
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Materials SCENE
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TOOTHLIKE
An ordered crystal is formed from hydroxyapatite and amelogenin.
Credit: Adapted from J. Phys. Chem. C
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TOOTHLIKE
An ordered crystal is formed from hydroxyapatite and amelogenin.
Credit: Adapted from J. Phys. Chem. C

Tooth enamel, made from tightly packed hydroxyapatite nanorods, is one of the hardest and most durable materials produced biologically. Exactly how it is manufactured in the body is still a mystery.

Now, a group led by George H. Nancollas at the State University of New York, Buffalo, has identified specific stages of enamel crystallization and found that the matrix protein amelogenin promotes hydroxyapatite nucleation (J. Phys. Chem. C, DOI: 10.1021/jp077105+). A better understanding of how enamel forms could lead to improved dental materials.

Much past research into enamel crystallization has involved extreme conditions not found in physiological systems, including high temperatures and supersaturated concentrations of hydroxyapatite. Nancollas and colleagues took a different tack by lowering experimental concentrations to slow down crystallization and investigating hydroxyapatite nucleation at physiological pH and temperature.

The researchers found that the first step in their in vitro enamel production was the cooperative formation of composite nanospheres of nanocrystallite apatite and amelogenin. The composite nanoparticles then aggregated into nanorods that are about 50 nm in diameter and 250 nm long. The nanorods, in turn, further assembled to form organized, elongated crystals that began to resemble biological enamel.

Although the researchers caution against directly relating in vitro results to in vivo formation, the findings indicate that amelogenin may play a critical role in controlling structural growth of enamel crystals, they say.

 
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