The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine scientists are studying the tooth enamel biomineralization process, which could allow them to develop unique nanoscale methods to produce biomaterials.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the findings of the scientists. Elia Beniash, who serves as associate professor of oral biology at the Pitt School of Dental Medicine, said that dental enamel has high flexibility and hardness and is the optimally mineralized tissue in the body. Its novel structure, which mimics an intricate ceramic microfabric, is the basis of its unique properties.
The researchers detected that amelogenin molecules form higher-order structures by assembling themselves gradually through tiny oligomeric building blocks. Amelogenin assemblies cause calcium phosphate nanoparticles, which are the key mineral phase in bone and enamel to stabilize and arrange them into a pattern of parallel arrays similar to linking a sequence of dots. After arrangement completion, the nanoparticles integrate and crystallize to construct the optimally mineralized enamel structure.
Beniash stated that the connection is still not clear but the self-assembling quality of amelogenin plays a vital role in directing the dots known as prenucleation clusters into a highly organized intricate structure. These findings allow researchers to utilize biological molecules to develop nanoscale minerals into unique materials that could be used for restorative dentistry and several other technologies, he said.
Beniash further said that enamel initially is an organic gel containing minute mineral crystals. The research team reconstructed the early stages of enamel formation in order to study the function of amelogenin, he said.