Research ArticleRegenerative Medicine

Photoactivation of Endogenous Latent Transforming Growth Factor–β1 Directs Dental Stem Cell Differentiation for Regeneration

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Science Translational Medicine  28 May 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 238, pp. 238ra69
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3008234

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Laser Light Encourages Tooth Regeneration

A small dose of light may be sufficient to promote new tooth growth, at least in animal models. Arany and colleagues shined low-power laser light on the tooth pulps of rats and saw the formation of tertiary dentin, which is a bone-like substance. Taking this as evidence of tooth regeneration, the authors investigated the mechanism by which light can cause the dental pulp to form bone. Arany et al. discovered that low-power laser activates latent transforming growth factor–β (TGF-β), leading to the generation of reactive oxygen species and the differentiation of dental stem cells into odontoblasts (dentin-forming bone cells). This mechanism was further confirmed in vivo by demonstrating that mice lacking TGF-β or treated with a TGF-β inhibitor were unable to respond to laser therapy. Because lasers are already used in dentistry, it is possible that such light-based treatment could be used in dental regeneration in people.