The focus of research in the Den Besten laboratory is in the biomineralization of tooth enamel and dentin. They currently have several active projects to study various aspects of enamel and dentin biomineralization. One of these projects aims to determine the mechanism by which fluoride affects enamel formation to result in enamel fluorosis. In this project they are investigating several possible mechanisms by which enamel fluorosis occurs, including altered protein/mineral interactions, and a direct of fluoride on the developing ameloblasts.
In order to determine factors that alter enamel formation, we need to better understand the proteins, proteinases and other molecules responsible for normal enamel formation. We are using immunopertrubation and antisense methods in tooth organ culture to alter the presence of certain proteins in enamel development. These studies have suggested that the enamel matrix protein, ameloblastin, has a key role in the regulation of enamel matrix synthesis.
Their studies on dentin formation have utilized various available transgenic mouse models with transgene expression driven by the osteocalcin promotor. In one of these mice models that over expresses TGF- , the dentin mineral apposition rate is increased while the physical properties of the dentin remain the same. Studies of dentin formation in these various transgenic mouse models will allow us to determine the key elements in dentin biomineralization and to use these elements to form dentin-like materials in vitro.