Scientists find key to growing teeth

February 27, 2009 1:05:35 PM PST
Finding genes that make teeth grow all in a row

Instead of getting a set of dentures -- suppose you could just grow a set of new teeth when your old ones fall out?

After all, sharks have extra teeth -- and now, scientists are figuring out the trick.

It turns out that a single gene appears to be in charge. It prevents additional tooth formation in some species, like people.

When the scientists bred mice that didn't have the gene, the mice developed extra teeth next to their first molars. They were the same types of backup teeth that sharks and other non-mammals have.

There's another possible implication of this research. All of the mice that were born without this gene had cleft palates that were severe enough to kill.

So, the team from the University of Rochester says a better understanding of the gene might play a role in efforts to prevent the birth defect.

Their work appears in the journal Science.

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