Laser lights are now being used to stimulate the growth of teeth. Lead researchers at Harvard University, Praveen Arany, has detailed in a new study how they are regrowing parts of teeth with an unlikely tool, a laser. Current dental problems may soon become an issue of the past. Lasers may be the up-and-coming transformative tool in dentistry.
Experimentation conducted by a team of Harvard researchers, in a lab, found that they were able to grow human dental tissue as well as stimulate the growth of teeth in rats by using low-powered lasers to activate stem cells. The findings were published today, in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Scientists are enamored with stem cells because they are present throughout the body. These cells are interesting in that they have the ability to replace or repair worn out or damaged tissue. Stem cells can do this because they have the unique ability to change and become different types of cells. The process has long been ongoing for medical teams to try and figure out how to make use of these uniquely gifted cells.
For the first time, scientists have been able to observe and demonstrate that only the laser is needed to stimulate growth of cells in the weakened area, once that area is exposed. Since the use of laser is a minimally invasive technique, that makes it appealing. Laser lights could become a thing of the future to stimulate not only the growth of teeth, but almost anything that is in need of repair.
Dentistry could be transformed with this new-found ability to naturally regrow dental tissue. The thought of regrowing teeth instead of replacing them is nothing short of amazing. When more knowledge is gleaned, the same technique could be used to possibly heal muscles, skin, wounds and perhaps even generate bone. It seems that stimulating the growth of teeth with laser lights is just the beginning.
Focused laser light therapy’s success revolves around a transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), which is native protein. This protein is in teeth. Researchers discovered during a preliminary test of dentin tissue, that when a focused beam of light hit the TGF-beta, it produced dentin, the same that is in a tooth. 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. Then it enables those stem cells to differentiate so that they can multiply and refine the dentin. Prior research was trying to manipulate the stem cells, but only resulted in altered stem cells.
Mooney said what they uncovered was that it was the energy of the photons that stimulated the TGF-beta, not the laser’s heat. The photons get absorbed into the tissue to activate molecules when the light is focused on the dentin. Those molecules are naturally occurring in the body and are known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). The chain reaction that takes place leading to the dentin reformation happens when the ROS stimulates the TGF-beta. The qualifier is that in order to be effective, the laser cannot produce any heat and must be at a specific level of intensity. So far, this has only been tested on rats’ teeth. It has been successful, in that 12 weeks after their teeth were drilled to removed dentin, then lasered, new dentin was found growing in the rats’ teeth. This same protein, TGF-beta, is also known to control inflammation.
Since research is still in the rodent model stages, it has not yet been determined when this will be ready for the humankind. Based on these new findings, possibilities are endless to contemplate. One thing is for certain, the human body stimulating its own stem cells is better than receiving manipulated and altered ones. Laser light may be a transformative tool of the future to stimulate more than just the growth of teeth.
By Jill Boyer-Adriance