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Scientist suggests that humans may one day develop beaks through evolution


A biologist from Sheffield University has suggested that the process of evolution could see human beings develop bills as their teeth fuse together over millions of years; providing something ‘more robust and practical’ than teeth, that is also less susceptible to wear and tear.

Dr Gareth Fraser told the Daily Mail that ‘it could be possible for humans to evolve to grow beaks, like puffer fish’, after he has done years of research into why humans only develop two sets of teeth in their lifetime, unlike animals – such as sharks – that get numerous sets. Dr Fraser identified the cells responsible for tooth growth in animals and believes that these cells could eventually be used in a similar capacity for tooth renewal in humans.

He went on to say ‘I guess people will be looking at whether you can make perfect teeth, but there will always be orthodontists employed even when you have new teeth, there is going to be a need for positioning. With our extended lives and modern diets, the limited supply of human teeth is really no longer fit for purpose.’ He also added that the research was unlikely to be used in practical application for at least another fifty years, explaining that ‘our research is focused on looking for ways in which we can replicate the way fish create an endless supply of teeth and bring this capability to humans.’

Scientists hoping to develop ‘grow your own’ teeth


Using Japanese puffer-fish as a template, scientists at Sheffield University are hoping to discover a way of renewing human teeth over an average lifespan, to give people who have suffered tooth loss a natural alternative to dentures or bridges. Puffer-fish have a beak with four teeth that are constantly renewed every few weeks, and researchers are investigating the chemical process in the hopes that something similar can be artificially developed for humans – who, like most mammals, only have two sets of teeth during their lifetime.

Dr Gareth Fraser from the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences spoke about what first drew him to the puffer-fish as an example of renewable teeth; ‘When I saw this beak I thought it was really weird. We quickly realised it is a very interesting structure which developed as a result of tooth replacement… this fish could give us a clue as to how it grows its teeth so humans no longer have to rely on dentures or implants. Wisdom teeth have already shown that late growth is possible.’

Dr Fraser went on to talk about the structure of the beak, saying that it was made out of dentine bands stacked together, each one representing a replacement tooth that would grow in the future. ‘It is an example of re-specification of its genetic tool-kit for tooth development toward a very alternatives, and unique, dentition.’

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