A novel discovery that may help in repairing damaged tooth enamel has been made by scientists from University of Illinois at Chicago.
They have found that a simple amino acid that is repeated in the centre of proteins found in tooth enamel makes teeth stronger and more resilient.
The research team compared proline repeats in amphibian and animal models and discovered that when the repeats are short, such as in frogs, teeth will not have the enamel prisms that are responsible for the strength of human enamel.
In contrast, when the proline repeats are long, they contract groups of molecules that help enamel crystals grow.
"Proline repeats are amazing," said Tom Diekwisch, professor and head of oral biology in the UIC College of Dentistry and lead researcher on the study.
"They hold the key to understanding the structure and function of many natural proteins, including mucins, antifreeze proteins, Alzheimer amyloid, and prion proteins.
"We hope that our findings will help many other important areas of scientific research, including the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases," he added.
The new discovery, Diekwisch said, will give new clues to engineer tooth enamel.
"We hope that one day these findings will help people replace lost parts of the tooth with a healthy layer of new enamel," he added.
The findings are published in the Journal PLoS Biology.