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Lasers used to rebuild teeth

By Tim Sandle     Jun 2, 2014 in Science
Scientists have carried out a study using lasers to rebuild the teeth of rodents. It is hoped that the technology could be used on people in the near future.
Zaps from a low-power laser appear to boost tooth growth in rodents. The beams of light set off a molecular chain reaction that ends with the regeneration of dentin, the tough material inside teeth (calcified tissue). Today, dentists and doctors can use lasers as high-tech scalpels to carve out damaged tissue, slice away overgrown gums or burn away tumors. However, for years some scientists have been of the view that turning down a laser’s power could actually get cells growing. It now seems that these assumptions were correct.
The procedure’s success all revolves around a native protein called transforming growth factor beta, or TGF-beta. During preliminary tests of dentin tissues, the researchers discovered that this growth factor changed very drastically when introduced to a focused beam of light. Further analysis revealed that when hit with light, TGF-beta actually stimulated the stem cells already present in dentin. A chemical reaction takes place that releases a reactive oxygen species.
To test their light therapy’s effectiveness, SABC reports that the researchers created a group of rats with tooth defects, by using a drill to remove pieces of their dentin. Following this the researchers shined a laser on their exposed tooth structures and soft tissues underneath it. After 12 weeks, the team observed that new dentin had formed in the rats’ teeth.
The Pinkas Family Professor of Bioenginnering at Harvard University, David Mooney, told Fox News that when the TGF-beta is activated by the laser, it binds to stem cells within the tissue. At present, scientists are unable to stimulate an entire tooth to regrow. Nonetheless, in the longer-term the findings may change the way dentists think about treating patients.
The findings have been reported to the journal Science Translational Medicine. The research is titled “Photoactivation of Endogenous Latent Transforming Growth Factor–β1 Directs Dental Stem Cell Differentiation for Regeneration.”
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