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Genes Associated With Early Tooth Development Identified

February 26, 2010

Several genes affect tooth development in the first year of life, according to the findings of a study conducted at Imperial College London, the University of Bristol in the UK and the University of Oulu in Finland. The research, published February 26 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, shows that the teeth of babies with certain genetic variants tend to appear later and that these children have a lower number of teeth by age one. Additionally, those children whose teeth develop later are more likely to need orthodontic treatment.

The research, led by Professor Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, scanned the entire genetic code of 6,000 individuals from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort (NFBC1966) and the Avon Longitudinal Study on Parents and Children (ALSPAC), UK, both of which track participants from mother’s early pregnancy until adulthood. The researchers identified five genes associated with both the first tooth eruption and the number of teeth at age one. They also found that one of the identified genes was associated with a 35% increased risk of requiring orthodontic treatment by the age of 30 years.

The authors emphasize that tooth development is not an isolated event. Teeth and several other organs have common growth and developmental pathways in early life. Some of the genes identified have been linked in previous studies with the development of the skull, jaws, ears, fingers, toes, and heart.

Abnormal tooth development may lead to dental problems that demand challenging and costly orthodontic treatment. The discovery of genes influencing tooth growth may lead to innovations in the early treatment and prevention of congenital dental and occlusion problems. Professor Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin said: “The discoveries of genetic and environmental determinants of human development will help us to understand the development of many disorders which appear later in life. We hope also that these discoveries will increase knowledge about why fetal growth seems to be such an important factor in the development of many chronic diseases.”

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: The NFBC1966 received financial support from the Academy of Finland (project grants 104781, 120315, 132797, and Center of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics); University Hospital Oulu, Biocenter, University of Oulu, Finland; the European Community’s Fifth/Seventh Framework Program (EURO-BLCS, QLG1-CT-2000-01643, FP7/2007-2013); NHLBI grant 5R01HL087679-02 through the STAMPEED program (1RL1MH083268-01); ENGAGE project (HEALTH-F4-2007-201413); the Medical Research Council (studentship grant G0500539, center grant G0600705); the Wellcome Trust (project grant GR069224), UK; the Research Council UK fellowship; the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre Program at Imperial College; and the Division of Epidemiology, Public Health and Primary Care (studentship grant DFHM G24038). The DNA extractions, sample quality controls, biobank up-keeping, and aliquotting were performed in the National Public Health Institute, Biomedicum Helsinki, Finland, and supported financially by the Academy of Finland and Biocentrum Helsinki. The UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. CJH is funded by a European Union grant HEALTH-2007-201550 HyperGenes. DME is supported by a Medical Research Council New Investigator Award (MRC G0800582). The ICLS (International Centre for Life Course Studies in Society and Health) is funded by an ESRC award: RES-596-28-0001. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

COMPETING INTERESTS: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

CITATION: Pillas D, Hoggart CJ, Evans DM, O’Reilly PF, Sipilä K, et al. (2010) Genome-Wide Association Study Reveals Multiple Loci Associated with Primary Tooth Development during Infancy. PLoS Genet 6(2): e1000856. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000856

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