Alligators and Dental Science?

Did you know alligators can replace each of their teeth up to 50 times in their life? Humans are unique among vertebrates for being able to replace our teeth only once. But new insights into how alligators replace their teeth may help stimulate the same process in ours.

Professor Cheng-Ming Chuong, M.D., Ph.D., has discovered novel molecular and cellular mechanisms in alligators that promote tooth renewal. Researchers have found that alligator teeth are made up of three parts: a functional tooth, a replacement tooth, and the dental lamina. This lamina contains stem cells that grow into new teeth.

As for next steps, the team hopes to isolate cells from the alligator lamina to see if they can develop teeth in-lab. They will also look into the molecular mechanisms of repeated renewal and apply these concepts to regenerative medicine in the future.

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