Lasers seem to be showing up everywhere lately. There’s laser eye surgery, laser hair removal, and even laser shows. Now, new work is showing that lasers can be used for even more medical procedures than we may have ever thought possible—and these laser procedures could save you a lot of time, pain, and money.
I can’t stand sitting in the dentist’s chair. I’m very lucky, though; I’ve never had to have a tooth replaced or a root canal performed, nor have I had any other major issues. I’ve had a few cavities, but nothing that really required any serious work. Even so, I find making it through a simple cleaning to be a serious challenge.
But what do my dental records have to do with lasers? Well, a new discovery may not get you out of the dentist’s chair, but it might shorten your stay.
Doctors from Harvard recently found they could regenerate teeth using lasers, in addition to outlining the specific molecular reasons why. Basically, it means that instead of replacing teeth, they’d be able to stimulate growth to regenerate them using stem cells. It’s a really exciting innovation. And when you understand why something is happening, it makes it easier to apply to other areas.
Typically, regeneration requires doctors to take stem cells from one area of the body, manipulate them in the lab, and then surgically replace them. This method requires no extractions or introductions to the body. The laser is shone on the stem cell and regeneration begins.
Doctors used a low-power laser to trigger a stem cell found in teeth called “dentin,” which is a hard tissue, similar to bone, making up the majority of a tooth. The laser stimulated molecules called “reactive oxygen species” (ROS), which play an important role in cellular function. In turn, the ROS activated a growth factor that started turning stem cells into dentin!
What’s even more impressive is that this kind of treatment might only be the beginning. By altering the intensity, lasers could possibly be used in other cases where replacement or surgical procedures are the norm. For example, wounds and injuries, such as lacerations, the loss of a limb, or bone fractures, are all potential areas that could benefit from this discovery.
It’s still early, but the results and feedback are positive. Furthermore, laser use is already common and permitted in the dentistry field, along with optometry, so it’s unlikely to encounter many barriers in the approval process. It may not be too long before you can zap your way back to good health!
Source for Today’s Article:
Kusek, K., “Researchers Use Light to Coax Stem Cells to Repair Teeth,” Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences web site, May 28, 2014; http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2014/05/researchers-use-light-to-coax-stem-cells-to-repair-teeth, last accessed June 2, 2014.