A new study by scientists at Kyoto University and the University of Fukui reports that an antibody for one gene – USAG-1 – can stimulate tooth growth in mice suffering from tooth agenesis, a congenital condition. The paper was published in Science Advances.
Although the normal adult mouth has 32 teeth, about 1% of the population has more or fewer due to congenital conditions. Scientists have explored the genetic causes for cases having too many teeth as clues for regenerating teeth in adults.
According to Katsu Takahashi, one of the lead authors of the study, the fundamental molecules responsible for tooth development have already been identified: “The morphogenesis of individual teeth depends on the interactions of several molecules including BMP, or bone morphogenetic protein, and Wnt signaling”.
BMP and Wnt are involved in much more than tooth development. They modulate the growth of multiple organs and tissues. Consequently, drugs that directly affect their activity are commonly avoided, since side effects could affect the entire body.
Guessing that targeting the factors that antagonize BMP and Wnt specifically in tooth development could be safer, the team considered the gene USAG-1. The scientists therefore investigated the effects of several monoclonal antibodies for USAG-1. Monoclonal antibodies are commonly used to treat cancers, arthritis, and in vaccine development.
The study is the first to show the benefits of monoclonal antibodies on tooth regeneration and provides a new therapeutic framework for a clinical problem that can currently only be resolved with implants and other artificial measures.