Reptiles replace their teeth continuously throughout life, as did early mammals, whereas modern mammals do not. If the ability for continual tooth renewal is latent in the mammalian genome, there is potential for the ability to regenerate and replace human dental tissues or whole teeth. This project will use an animal model (the leopard gecko) to seek the triggers that recruit the stem cells that are presumed to initiate replacement teeth.
Possible triggers could range from tooth loss or wear to changes in gradients of molecules secreted by the dental tissues that dictate position and the rate of tooth development. Analysis using high resolution synchrotron scanning and pulse-chase labelling will be compared to studies on tooth extraction previously carried out on iguanas at the Royal Ontario Museum.