You never know where an opportunity will present itself for a materials science technician. Your local dentist or dental lab may need help in the near future if this research from Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom develops.
Earlier this month, researchers announced they were working on a new way to grow “mineralized” materials that mimic hard tissues – dental enamel or bone.
The study, originally published in Nature Communications, show how new materials can be recreated to look and work like natural dental enamel. The researchers believe that it could help prevent tooth decay and sensitivity and also provide a way to treat those conditions.
According to the paper:
“Enamel, located on the outer part of our teeth, is the hardest tissue in the body and enables our teeth to function for a large part of our lifetime despite biting forces, exposure to acidic foods and drinks and extreme temperatures. This remarkable performance results from its highly organised structure.”
The paper cites “lead author Professor Alvaro Mata, also from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, who said: ‘A major goal in materials science is to learn from nature to develop useful materials based on the precise control of molecular building-blocks. The key discovery has been the possibility to exploit disordered proteins to control and guide the process of mineralisation at multiple scales. Through this, we have developed a technique to easily grow synthetic materials that emulate such hierarchically organised architecture over large areas and with the capacity to tune their properties.'”
Mimic other hard tissues
As the researchers understand and control how the process of mineralization works, they believe they will be able to mimic other hard tissues. That potential makes it interesting and valuable to other specialties within the medical and dental communities, particularly in regenerative medicine.
An understanding of how materials work is going to be increasingly valuable in our materials research-based world. Whether it is dental enamel, human bones, or carbon fiber, materials science technicians have a bright future.
More resources and information:
The full research paper was published at Nature Communications: ‘Protein disorder-order interplay to guide 1 the growth of hierarchical mineralized structures’. Sherif Elsharkawy, Maisoon Al-Jawad, Maria F. Pantano, Esther Tejeda-Montes, Khushbu Mehta, Hasan Jamal, Shweta Agarwal, Kseniya Shuturminska, Alistair Rice, Nadezda V. Tarakina, Rory M. Wilson, Andy J. Bushby, Matilde Alonso, Jose C. Rodriguez-Cabello, Ettore Barbieri, Armando del Rio Hernández, Molly M. Stevens, Nicola M. Pugno, Paul Anderson, Alvaro Mata.
Details from Queen Mary University of London news post: Scientists develop material that could regenerate dental enamel. The research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant (STROFUNSCAFF) and the Marie Curie Integration Grant (BIOMORPH).
An early release of the research was featured in Labiotech.eu and it has a good breakdown of what it looks like and what it means for dentistry and for us as patients: Dental Enamel Biopolymers.
Photo used with permission from Queen Mary University of London. Credit: Alvaro Mata.
If you are interested in other materials science advancements for technician education (and future employment opportunity ideas), check out this post on TEAMM AM News: Disney Research Uses Materials Science To Invent Touchscreen Walls With Conductive Paint.