When you think about sharks, a mouthful of sharp, white teeth is probably one of the images that come to mind, and for good reason. Sharks have thousands of teeth that are aligned in multiple rows, and rather than being embedded into the jawbone like human teeth, they are found in the gums.
While shark teeth may seem scary, they are actually teaching researchers more about our teeth. Sharks are actually able to continuously regrow teeth, with many losing tens of thousands of teeth throughout their lifetime. Not to worry, though - a shark can grow a new tooth in a matter of weeks.
Now, researchers believe they have identified the network of genes that lead to lifelong regeneration of teeth in sharks, and since humans have that same set of genes, the discovery could help to create new treatment methods for humans who have lost teeth.
About the Study This study was completed by a team of researchers at the UK's University of Sheffield, who identified expression patterns of several genes that resulted in the formation of dental lamina in catsharks.
This dental lamina - or a set of specialized epithelial cells - was found to influence tooth development in sharks as well as continuous tooth regeneration.
Surprisingly, humans possess those same genes that create dental lamina, but once the adult teeth are formed completely, that dental lamina is lost.
What This Information Means Tooth loss is a major problem in U.S. adults. The CDC has stated that about 52% of adults under the age of 64 had lost at least one permanent tooth as a result of gum disease or other oral health problem.
The findings from this study indicate that someday, it might be possible to trigger the human body to regenerate a new tooth. This would eliminate the need for dentures, bridges, and other restorative devices in favor of a healthy, natural tooth.