Connecting the dots: Nanoscale approach to biomaterials

August 8, 2011

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine are piecing together the process of tooth enamel biomineralization, which could lead to novel nanoscale approaches to developing biomaterials. The findings are reported online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dental enamel is the most mineralized tissue in the body and combines high hardness with resilience, said Elia Beniash, Ph.D., associate professor of oral biology, Pitt School of Dental Medicine. Those properties are the result of its unique structure, which resembles a complex ceramic microfabric.

"Enamel starts out as an organic gel that has tiny mineral crystals suspended in it," he said. "In our project, we recreated the early steps of enamel formation so that we could better understand the role of a key called amelogenin in this process."

Dr. Beniash and his team found that amelogenin molecules self-assemble in stepwise fashion via small oligomeric building blocks into higher-order structures. Just like connecting a series of dots, amelogenin assemblies stabilize of , which is the main mineral phase in enamel and bone, and organize them into parallel arrays. Once arranged, the nanoparticles fuse and crystallize to build the highly mineralized enamel structure.

"The relationship isn't clear to us yet, but it seems that amelogenin's ability to self-assemble is critical to its role in guiding the dots, called prenucleation clusters, into this complex, highly organized structure," Dr. Beniash said. "This gives us insight into ways that we might use biologic molecules to help us build nanoscale minerals into , which is important for restorative dentistry and many other technologies."

Explore further: Improper consumption of acidic foods could lead to destroyed enamel

Related Stories

Genetic discovery could lead to advances in dental treatment

February 23, 2009

Researchers have identified the gene that ultimately controls the production of tooth enamel, a significant advance that could some day lead to the repair of damaged enamel, a new concept in cavity prevention, and restoration ...

Researchers Crack the Mystery of Resilient Teeth

April 17, 2009

( -- After years of biting and chewing, how are human teeth able to remain intact and functional? A team of researchers from The George Washington University and other international scholars have discovered several ...

Open wide and say 'zap'

August 18, 2009

A group of researchers in Australia and Taiwan has developed a new way to analyze the health of human teeth using lasers. As described in the latest issue of Optics Express,, by measuring how the surface of a tooth responds ...

Exposure to alkaline substances can result in damaged teeth

October 27, 2009

It has long been known that acids can erode tooth enamel but a new Swedish study from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that strong alkaline substances can damage teeth too - substances ...

Recommended for you

Physicists develop new technique to fathom 'smart' materials

November 26, 2015

Physicists from the FOM Foundation and Leiden University have found a way to better understand the properties of manmade 'smart' materials. Their method reveals how stacked layers in such a material work together to bring ...

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...

New sensor sends electronic signal when estrogen is detected

November 24, 2015

Estrogen is a tiny molecule, but it can have big effects on humans and other animals. Estrogen is one of the main hormones that regulates the female reproductive system - it can be monitored to track human fertility and is ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2011
Hopefully all of these technologies will manage to be developed soon.

Our economy is a wreck with the past 3 days of losses in the markets and so on.

Hopefully we will pass the curve into the nanotech future before universities and government funded research facilities lose their fundings.

We need more innovators who can partner with the scientists and inventors to discover all of the applications of these new technologies and develop marketable products which solve real world problems: Disease, food preservation, crop failure, manufacturing, new composite construction materials, etc.

The ability to re-grow your own teeth, perhaps from a DNA sample, would be nice. Yeah.

Dow Jones lost 10% in 3 days.

We need some sort of new, low-energy nanotechnology for production and medicine.

not rated yet Aug 09, 2011
This could evolve into a new material for the production of welding bonds, laminated structural supports,and insulation for electric utilities.
Many successful applications from barnacles have been tried,and worked.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.