Enamel is the hardest biological tissue in the human body and mimicking the structure artificially has proven impossible due to its complex nature. Team of Scientists at China’s Zhejiang University and Jiujiang Research Institute have published an article in Science Advances stating their findings about a gel which has helped repair Enamel in a lab rat over a period of 48 hours. The scientist revealed that they have used a material composing of calcium phosphate ion clusters which is used to produce a precursor layer which in turn help in the epitaxial crystal growth of enamel apatite.
Formation of Enamel is called as Amelogenesis because the cells which form enamel are called as Ameloblasts where the mature enamel surface is acellular thus having no self repair properties. This makes Caries and tooth decay an irreversible process where once damaged the enamel surface cannot be repaired but replaced with other filling materials like Amalgam, Glass Ionomer Cements, Composite etc. In the article it is mentioned that this process has been inspired from the biological process – crystal growth of the zebrafish fin bone and nacre where the amorphous phase coats the crystalline mineral phase ensuring continuous epitaxial construction.
What is the composition of this Enamel Repairing Gel?
It is made by mixing calcium and phosphate ions – both minerals which are found in enamel – with the chemical called triethylamine in an alcohol solution. The material induces formation of a precursor layer which induces the epitaxial crystal growth of enamel apatite, this mimics the biomineralization crystalline-amorphous frontier of hard tissue development which happens naturally. The formed enamel like structure is similar in mechanical properties as well as the hierarchical structure is similar to naturally formed enamel.
Calcium phosphate ion clusters or CPICs which are a few nano meters in size are used as he building blocks in the formation of ACP and HAP (Hydroxyapetite) which helps in the formation of the artificial enamel on the surface of the native enamel. The repair layer showed the fish scale-shaped layers of the enamel replicating the natural enamel surface. Before use in humans many factors should be considered such as chewing habits, foods consumed, exposure to multiple types of food substances which lead to destruction of the enamel surface.