Dr. Cristina Teixeira, a New York University dental researcher, has received a $650,000 grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the National Institute of Health (NIH), to study how to manipulate the spread of nitric oxide, a powerful gas that signals temporary cartilage cells to grow bone.

Understanding how to control nitric oxide could provide scientists with one of the tools needed to engineer cartilage implants that convert into maxillofacial bone, says Dr. Cristina, an assistant professor of orthodontics and of basic science and craniofacial biology at NYU College of Dentistry.

Nitric oxide gas is one of many mechanisms that cartilage cells use to stimulate their conversion into long bones, such as vertebra and ribs, in embryos and young children. Dr. Teixeira hypothesizes that these growth mechanisms could also spur implanted cartilage to grow into bone large enough to fill the gaps in cleft palate and head and neck cancer patients. “Bone formed from cartilage would thus have an advantage over direct bone grafts, which cannot expand,” says Dr. Teixeira. In a separate study, funded by a grant from the American Association of Orthodontists Foundation, Dr. Teixeira is investigating whether chicken cartilage cells implanted in mice can spontaneously induce bone formation.

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