(Reuters) - Scientists have come up with a bright idea - literally - to repair teeth.
And they say their concept - using laser light to entice the body's own stem cells into action - may offer enormous promise beyond just dentistry in the field of regenerative medicine.
The researchers used a low-power laser to coax dental stem cells to form dentin, the hard tissue similar to bone that makes up most of a tooth, demonstrating the process in studies involving rats and mice and using human cells in a laboratory.
They did not regenerate an entire tooth in part because the enamel part was too tricky. But merely getting dentin to grow could help alleviate the need for root canal treatment, the painful procedure to remove dead or dying nerve tissue and bacteria from inside a tooth, they said.
"I'm a dentist by training. So I think it has potential for great impact in clinical dentistry," researcher Praveen Arany of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said on Friday.
Arany expressed hope that human clinical trials could get approval in the near future.