Sharks May Help Make Human Tooth Loss History

Scientists figure out how sharks keep regenerating their teeth
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2016 1:53 PM CST
Researchers believe they've figured out how sharks continuously regenerate teeth throughout their lives. And that could be great news for humans who've lost theirs.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

(Newser) – Good news for soda lovers: Scientists appear to be one step closer to being able to regenerate teeth in humans. A study in Developmental Biology explains how sharks and other marine life are able to regrow teeth continuously throughout their lives. Until now, that process had been "poorly understood and [remained] virtually uncharacterized from a developmental genetic standpoint." Researchers at the University of Sheffield studying the embryos of catsharks discovered a "special set of epithelial cells" called dental lamina that are responsible for regenerating teeth, according to a press release.

Those genes goes back 450 million years and are likely responsible for producing the first teeth in vertebrates, as well as generating all the teeth since, including those in humans. In fact, humans have the same dental lamina, but they produce teeth only twice ("baby" teeth, then the adult versions) before the cells disappear. Researchers believe it's possible for this research to eventually help people who've lost teeth. "The Jaws films taught us that it's not always safe to go into the water, but this study shows that perhaps we need to in order to develop therapies that might help humans with tooth loss," says researcher Dr. Gareth Fraser. (Speaking of the abilities of sharks: They literally have a sixth sense for killing.)

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