An Apple A Day

I was reading the March '09 issue of Popular Mechanics while on the bus to work this morning and one of the shorts at the front of the magazine grabbed my interest. But it had nothing to do with apples.

Apparently there's a company in Florida, ONI BioPharma, which has engineered a strain of bacteria that it has named SMaRT. So what, you ask?

Well, tooth decay, as you probably know, is caused by bacteria in the mouth gobbling up sugar and excreting lactic acid. That's called lactic acid fermentation, in case you were curious. The acid causes a change in pH which allows calcium to dissolve. Pretty much the same idea as acid rain causing marble statues to erode in Italy---marble being composed primarily of calcium carbonate.

So what this new SMaRT bacteria does is out compete the normal bacteria in the mouth. You see, SMaRT bacteria are engineered to not be able to excrete lactic acid. Instead they poop out an antibiotic that targets the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Pretty nifty!

Dentists just need to swab the SMaRT bugs onto teeth once and the bacteria will stay there reproducing happily and every generation of the bugs will keep away those nasty lactic acid pooping bacteria. What a wonderful story! Of course what isn't explained is why dentists that do a fair amount of trade as a result of those cavities would want to be swabbing teeth to prevent their money tree from growing. How will the dentists put their kids through college if the world is suddenly filled with healthy teeth?


srp said…
And of course, who can say that these SMaRT bacteria won't mutate in a few generations and produce a toxin that makes the teeth fall out! I feel a horror movie premise coming on!
utenzi said…
Nah, that's Crichton territory and he's dead.
Thumper said…
Oh great, now I'm going to obsess about bacteria pooping in my mouth...
kenju said…
If they can make a bacteria that will eat the kind that makes bad breath - I'm all for it.
Blonde Goddess said…
I'm in dire need of some of that stuff. Little Beatle never brushes his teeth and I have to force him to do it.
Ironically he wants to be a dentist when he grows up.
Funny, huh?

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