Medical Discovery NewsBridging the World of Medical Discovery and You

Recent Episodes

Shining a Light on Cavities


As many as twenty percent of us are anxious about seeing the dentist! I don't relish it either but sometimes you have to. So, I'm usually delighted to see research that can make a dental visit less stressful.

In a recent study the dental drill is replaced with a laser light to fix cavities. It shines low power laser onto damaged teeth to stimulate the regrowth of dentin. The laser light works by stimulating stem cells already in teeth. This approach repairs damage from within, possibly one day eliminating the need for fillings altogether.

In our teeth are four different tissues: Enamel, dentin and cementum which are all harder than bone, while dental pulp is the innermost layer. It's a soft tissue where stem cells reside. Among the strengths of this therapy is that stem cells don't need to be removed from the body, grown in the lab, then reimplanted. Nor do they require growth factors which risks uncontrolled growth.

Using mice, researchers drilled holes in the rodents' dentin to simulate tooth damage. Next they shone a non-ionizing or low-power laser on the damaged area and the pulp beneath. They then capped the damaged teeth. With just a single five minute treatment, the mice had new dentin form in the damaged area in twelve weeks. Similar results were seen in cultured human dental stem cells.

The laser seems to create micro-injuries that stimulate the release of latent growth factors such as TGF-beta 1. The growth molecules then activate stem cells promoting tissue generation and restoring the damaged dentin. The next step is human clinical trials and if successful, researchers are looking at regeneration of other tissues using the same approach.

More Information

Photoactivation of Endogenous Latent Transforming Growth Factor''1 Directs Dental Stem Cell Differentiation for Regeneration
Praveen R. Arany, et al. Science Translational Medicine. 28 May 2014 6:238ra69. [DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.3008234]

Dental Anatomy: Tissues of a Tooth
Learn about the four tissues of teeth at

Forget the dentist's drill, use lasers to heal teeth
New Scientist — "Open wide, this won't hurt a bit. That might actually be true if the dentist's drill is replaced by a promising low-powered laser that can prompt stem cells to make damaged hard tissue in teeth grow back. Such minimally invasive treatment could one day offer an easy way to repair or regrow our pearly whites."

Researchers use light to coax stem cells to repair teeth
Harvard News— Noninvasive laser therapy could radically shift dental treatment and lead to a host of broader clinical applications in regenerative medicine


Medicine is constantly advancing – that is a great thing about life in the 21st century. But it doesn’t just happen. Dedicated biomedical scientists are making discoveries that translate into those new medical advances.

Biomedical science is broad, encompassing everything from social science to microbiology, biochemistry, epidemiology, to structural biology and bioinformatics to name just a few areas. And, it can involve basic fundamental biology, the use of AI and chemistry to clinical studies that evaluate new medicines in patients.

No matter the research focus, the goal is always the same, to advance human health. It may take a few months, a few years or for fundamental science, a few decades. Few people make the connection that biomedical science is medicine and that biomedical scientists are working today on the medicine of tomorrow. Our weekly 500-word newspaper columns and 2-minute radio shows and podcasts provide insights into a broad range of biomedical science topics.

Medical Discovery News is dedicated to explaining discoveries in biomedical research and their promise for the future of medicine.


Alternatively, you can copy and paste the following web address (URL) into iTunes as a new subscription:

You can also search and subscribe to "Medical Discovery News" in the podcast section of iTunes.

See all podcasts and radio stations

The web site and Medical Discovery News radio program (Program) are made possible by The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB)as a community service and are intended to advance UTMB's mission of providing scholarly teaching, innovative scientific investigation, and state-of-the-art patient care in a learning environment to better the health of society and its commitment to the discovery of new innovative biomedical and health services knowledge leading to increasingly effective and accessible health care for the citizens of Texas.

All information provided on the web site and in the Program is for informational purposes only and is not intended for use as diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for consulting a licensed medical professional. Any information obtained by participating as a web site visitor or program listener is not intended to and should not be considered to constitute medical advice.

Thoughts and opinions expressed on the Program or on the website are those of the authors or guests and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of UTMB. The provision of links to other websites is not to be construed as written or implied sponsorship or endorsement of such websites by UTMB.

Please contact Dr. David Niesel or Dr. Norbert Herzog via email with any concerns, suggestions or comments.

All rights are reserved to information provided on the website or other information sources. No part of these programs can be reproduced stored in a retrieval system or transcribed in any form or by any means for personal or financial gained without the express written permission of Drs. Niesel and Dr. Herzog.