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Deadly Fish Could Explain Why Humans Don’t Replace Their Teeth

Posted on Wednesday, October 9, 2013

ScienceDaily (May 14, 2012)— Prickly pufferfish could hold the key to why humans do not continually replace their teeth and may lead to advances in dental therapies.

New research focusing on tooth development in the deadly fish shows that after the first generation of teeth the program for continued tooth replacement modifies to form a distinctive and unusual “parrot like” beak.

The study, which is the first time scientists have analyzed the development of the fish’s unique beak, also supports the idea that evolution doesn’t make jumps, as its distinctive bite has been modified from a set of genes responsible for tooth development and preserved over 400 million years.

Dr. Gareth Fraser of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, who led the project, said: “It goes beyond fishes and even morphological novelty; we can use the pufferfish beak as a model for a simplified tooth replacement system — composed of just four continually replacing teeth that make up the beak structure. 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.”

"As humans only replace their teeth once, fishes and pufferfish in particular, can be looked at as a new model to help us to answer questions like how continuous tooth replacement programs are maintained throughout life? This would help our understanding of why humans have lost this replacement potential, and furthermore how can we use knowledge of the genetic underpinnings of tooth replacement in fishes to facilitate advances in dental therapies.”

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