Science Regrows Teeth Using Lasers & Dental Stem Cells, Magic!

The latest development in stem cell research will give you a new reason to smile. A research team from Harvard has successfully demonstrated how low-level light therapy can help to repair, regrow, and regenerate teeth. The team was able to use a low-power laser to trigger dental stem cells to create dentin, the hard tissue that makes up the bulk of our teeth. This newest development is further proof of how versatile laser therapy is, and could signal major future developments in stem cell research.

A research team from Harvard University's Wyss Institute studied a variety of clinical applications in restorative dentistry. What they discovered is vastly different from previous stem cell regeneration efforts, which require scientists to extract stem cells from the body, study and manipulate them in a lab, before returning them back to the body. These steps pose challenges in translating the process into a clinical application. But this new dental regeneration study, which was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine , broke the mold.

"Our treatment modality does not introduce anything new to the body, and lasers are routinely used in medicine and dentistry, so the barriers to clinical translation are low," David J. Mooney, Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, told Harvard's Wyss Institute. "It would be a substantial advance in the field if we can regenerate teeth rather than replace them."

That sounds like a win-win combo right there: nothing is being manipulated and then reintroduced back into the body and the process uses a familiar technology already prevalent in the field of medicine. Really gives you something to grin about, doesn't it?

Working with dentist Praveen Arany, Ph.D., the team studied the application on a group of rodents. Arany drilled holes in their molars, applied low-level laser treatments to the part of the tooth pulp that contains stem cells, and installed temporary caps. After 12 weeks, X-rays and microscopy revealed that the laser treatments had triggered the formation of dentin. While the results were inarguably promising, the difference in scale did present some technical challenges in the procedure.

"It was definitely my first time doing rodent dentistry," Arany told Harvard. Mooney chimed in, "This is one of those rare cases where it would be easier to do this work on a human."

The team then identified the exact molecular mechanism responsible for regenerating the dentin after the laser treatments. The answer was a regulatory protein called transforming growth factor beta-1, which, in tandem with the reactive oxygen species induced by the laser, turned the stem cells into dentin.

Arany plans to take this research and apply it to human clinical trials next. Not only could this discovery prove revolutionary in the field of dentistry, but the same technology could provide the foundation for stem cell research on a broader level. Arany told the Wyss Institute, "We are also excited about expanding these observations to other regenerative applications with other types of stem cells."