American alligators have a smile that only a mother could love, but new research finds that these huge meat-loving reptiles could help to revolutionize tooth replacement in humans.
The statistics about alligator teeth are remarkable. Most individuals go through around 3,000 teeth in a lifetime. It’s estimated that a 13-foot-long alligator replaces each of its 80 teeth about 50 times throughout the animal’s existence.
Now the light bulb moment for scientists is that alligator teeth are not all that dissimilar from human ones. The main difference is that when an adult human loses a tooth, it’s gone forever.
(That offers an interesting clue as to what kind of diet our early human ancestors had. It couldn’t have been too hard or tough, or else we would have evolved a better tooth replacement system.).
For this latest study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cheng-Ming Chuong of National Taiwan University and colleagues studied repetitive tooth formation in American alligators. Detailed imaging of gator teeth determined that at the early tooth development stage, the alligator’s dentine bone-like material forms a bulge at its tip. The tip houses what are believed to be dormant stem cells.
For the rest of the story: http://news.discovery.com/animals/alligators-inspire-new-way-for-people-to-regrow-teeth-130513.htm#mkcpgn=rssnws1