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Researchers Use Low-Power Light To Trigger Stem Cells Inside The Body To Regenerate Tissues

Update Date: May 29, 2014 10:02 AM EDT

A team of researchers has demonstrated the ability to use low-power light to trigger stem cells inside the body to regenerate tissues. 

According to researchers, the findings lay the foundation for a number of clinical applications in restorative dentistry and regenerative medicine more broadly such as wound healing and bone generation. 

Researchers used a low-power laser to trigger human dental stem cells that formed dentin - the hard tissue that is similar to bone and makes up the bulk of teeth. 

Researchers also outlined the precise molecular mechanism involved demonstrating its effectiveness using multiple laboratory and animal models. 

"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," said Wyss Institute Core Faculty member David Mooney, Ph.D., who is also the Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), in the press release. "It would be a substantial advance in the field if we can regenerate teeth rather than replace them."

Many biologically active molecules like regulatory proteins called growth factors, can trigger stem cells to differentiate into different cell types. As of now, regeneration efforts require scientists to isolate stem cells from the body, manipulate them in a lab and then return them to the body again. 

However, the approach devised by Mooney is different and he hopes it to be "easier to get into the hands of practicing clinicians." 

"The scientific community is actively exploring a host of approaches to using stem cells for tissue regeneration efforts," said Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., in the press release "and the team has added an innovative, noninvasive and remarkably simple but powerful tool to the toolbox."

The research has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine

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