Dentin tissue (harder than bone but softer than enamel), makes up the core of teeth. When a tooth is chipped or damaged, dentists use ceramic or other synthetic materials to protect it (like fillings, crowns and veneers). Arany and colleagues found that in rats, laser light - already shown to help regenerate cardiac, skin, lung, and nerve tissues - could regenerate a piece of lost tooth structure. The researchers created a defect in the tooth structure of the animals using a drill and removed a piece of dentin. They next shined a laser on the exposed tooth structure and the soft tissue underneath it. Twelve weeks later, the team observed that new dentin had formed. It turns out that laser light activates a native growth factor called TGF-beta, which stimulates stem cells to regenerate dentin. Since TGF-beta is present in many tissues (like the skin and bone), and is known to be important in controlling tissue inflammation, this technique could potentially be applied to other locations in the body, the researchers say. It may be what is helping to regrow cardiac, skin, lung and nerve tissue, for example. For now, Arany and team are focused on testing dentin regeneration in people.
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