Researchers at Queen Mary University of London may have discovered a new way to produce materials capable of regenerating dental enamel. The study, “Protein Disorder-Order Interplay to Guide the Growth of Hierarchical Mineralized Structures,” published in Nature Communications, shows how these materials might be used to prevent or treat dental caries or dentinal hypersensitivity.
An international team from the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Japan demonstrated a method that leverages the disorder-order interplay of an intrinsically disordered protein—elastin-like recombinamers—to guide mineralization. Using this approach, investigators report the elastin-like recombinamers formed apatite nanocrystals that aligned and organized into prism-like structures, as found in dental enamel. These prisms subsequently “grow together into spherulite-like structures hundreds of micrometers in diameter that come together to fill macroscopic areas. The structures can be grown over large, uneven surfaces and native tissues as acid-resistant membranes or coatings with tunable hierarchy, stiffness, and hardness. Our study represents a potential strategy for complex materials design that may open opportunities for hard tissue repair,” the researchers explain.