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Bradford's research has bite

Published: Thurs 26 Nov 2015
Bradford's research has bite

Bradford's own tooth fairy has received funding to explore how our baby teeth can predict future health.

Dr Julia Beaumont from the University of Bradford has received funding to collect and analyse 250 teeth to identify a correlation between diet and physiology. If successful, the technique used in the study has the potential to identify children at risk of disease in later life, as a forensic tool in cases of neglect, and also to study maternal and infant health in ancient populations.

Dr Beaumont, Lecturer in Biological Anthropology said: "Teeth can tell us a lot more than people think. They provide a unique signpost for nutritional issues that children may have been exposed to whilst in the womb or in early life. Early research shows that by examining these teeth we can predict certain health issues a child may have later on in life."

Studies have shown that nutritional deficiencies are recorded in incrementally-growing tissues such as hair and fingernails through changes in the nitrogen and carbon isotopes ratios, however only the dentine within baby teeth retains the information about life in the womb.

Julia has developed a novel method of analysing tiny archaeological dentine samples and their nitrogen isotopes values, to paint a picture of the nutritional environment children have been exposed to in the womb.

The £20,000 in funding was awarded by the Rank Prize Funds Nutrition Committee as part of their New Lecturer Award. It allows Julia to work in collaboration with Peter Day, Associate Professor and Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry at the University of Leeds and Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust Salaried Dental Service. They will aim to collect 250 deciduous teeth together with medical histories, in collaboration with the Ethical Tissue Bank at the University of Bradford.

Julia was a practising dentist and orthodontist for 30 years before completing her PhD which led her to study temporal isotope profiles in archaeological teeth. This unique combination has allowed her to work with specialists in both clinical and anthropological disciplines.

Anyone wishing to donate baby teeth to help Julia with her research please email j.beaumont6@bradford.ac.uk

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