Materials Scientists Working On Dental Enamel That Could Regenerate

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.

Disney Research Uses Materials Science To Invent Touchscreen Walls With Conductive Paint

Virtual Reality Workshop For Digital Manufacturing Education

The TEAMM project is hosting a two-day workshop on using virtual reality technology as a classroom tool. It will be hosted at Edmonds Community College on August 22 and 23 at Monroe Hall.

The 2-day workshop is sponsored by Manufacturing Education Using Virtual Environment Resources (MANEUVER), an NSF project, and will be covering VR-based digital manufacturing (DM) instruction modules.

This workshop is directed towards community college instructors and high-school teachers interested in digital manufacturing instruction using virtual reality tools and techniques. There is no fee to register; Washington State Clock Hours are available; and seating is limited.

  • If you are interested to attend at Edmonds Community College, please contact Robin Ballard for the August 22-23 workshop in Washington. Here is the EventBrite invite page.
  • If you are interested in the Purdue University workshop for July 17 – 18, contact Magesh Chandramouli.
  • For the Tennessee Tech University (TTU) workshop on July 28 – 29, contact Ismail Fidan.

To learn more about how manufacturing and VR are coming together, here is a brief abstract (from the NSF grant page) of the work that Magesh Chandramouli is doing:

Project MANEUVER (Manufacturing Education Using Virtual Environment Resources) is developing an affordable virtual reality (VR) framework to address the imminent demand for well-trained digital manufacturing (DM) technicians. Over half of the 3.5 million required manufacturing positions in the US are expected to go unfilled due to a “skills gap”. Employment projections show a decline in conventional manufacturing jobs with marked growth in DM jobs. This VR instructional framework, targeted at two and four year programs, will not only advance the field of DM, but will also strengthen education by remedying the lack of clearly defined career/educational pathway(s) for entry-level DM technicians.

MANEUVER is developing an innovative multi-modal VR framework for DM instruction. This framework decouples the 3D DM database from functionalities, thus giving the instructional designer access through immersive, augmented, and desktop VR. Instead of pairing functionalities with the VR database, which prevents access by other modes, the decoupled approach allows for mode-independent approach, facilitating affordable access and broader implementation. The resultant curricular modules can be replicated for use on multiple machines without additional costs. During manufacturing process training, VR tools serve as a viable alternative offering a cost and material-efficient solution. Industry standard software and hardware is being used to develop and deliver advanced DM exercises for instructional and training purposes. Using a “train-the-trainers” approach, a replicable faculty development model is being developed for secondary and post-secondary institutions. By addressing regional and national entry-level workforce needs, the project benefits society and contributes to national economic progress and prosperity.

You can also read how The Facility is a partner of Purdue’s work: “VR Lab at The FACILITY Makerspace at Edmonds Community College.”

VR Lab at The FACILITY Makerspace at Edmonds Community College