Deadly Pufferfish may reveal why humans don't have continuous tooth replacement

May 17, 2012

Issue 5

Dr. Gareth Fraser from the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences has led a research project that is focused on tooth development in Pufferfish. The tooth development in Pufferfish has not changed through evolution and the study reveals that after the first generation of teeth, the programme for continued tooth replacement modifies to form a distinctive "parrot like" beak. What does this mean?

Dr. Gareth Fraser from the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences has led a research project that is focused on tooth development in Pufferfish. The tooth development in Pufferfish has not changed through evolution and the study reveals that after the first generation of teeth, the programme for continued tooth replacement modifies to form a distinctive "parrot like" beak.

What does this mean?

"It goes beyond fishes and even morphological novelty; we can use the Pufferfish beak as a simplified tooth replacement system composed of just four continually replacing teeth that make up the beak structure," said Fraser. "It is of great interest for science to understand the process of tooth replacement, to understand the genes that govern the continued supply of teeth and mechanisms of dental stem cell maintenance."

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Because humans only go through one tooth replacement, the findings in the Pufferfish can be used as a model to help scientists explore how continuous tooth replacement programmes are maintained throughout life and perhaps help explain why humans have lost the potential for continuous tooth replacement.

According to Fraser, the goal is to use the genetic underpinnings of the tooth replacement in the Pufferfish to facilitate advances in human dental therapies.

Source: Science Daily