Goodbye root canals? Researchers use lasers to regrow parts of teeth

Goodbye root canals? Researchers use lasers to regrow parts of teeth

Loren Grush

By Loren Grush
·Published May 28, 2014·

For the millions of Americans who suffer cavities each year, the ominous threat of a root canal may soon be a worry of the past.

Now, researchers from Harvard University claim they have discovered a novel way of regrowing parts of people’s teeth using an unlikely tool: Lasers.


In a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, lead researcher Praveen Arany and colleagues detailed how they used focused laser light therapy on rats to stimulate the growth of lost dentin, the calcified tissue that comprises teeth. They noted that if the therapy proves effective in humans, it could potentially eliminate the need for crowns, fillings and other complex dental operations in the future.

The procedure’s success all revolves around a native protein called transforming growth factor beta, or TGF-beta. During preliminary tests of dentin tissues, the researchers discovered that this growth factor changed very drastically when introduced to a focused beam of light. Further analysis revealed that when hit with light, TGF-beta actually stimulated the stem cells already present in dentin.

“Once [TGF-beta] is activated by the laser, it can bind to stem cells resident in the tissue, and then it induces those stem cells to differentiate so they can proliferate and reform dentin,” David Mooney, the Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard University, told

Numerous studies have focused on ways to manipulate stem cells in order to spur tissue regeneration, but most of these techniques have revolved around reintroducing altered stem cells into the patient or directing stem cell populations externally through added growth factors. With this form of laser therapy, the only external factor that is being introduced is light, which activates TGF-beta that’s already in the body.

According to Mooney, it’s not the laser’s heat that stimulates TGF-beta but the energy of its photons. When light is focused on dentin, the photons get absorbed into the tissue and activate molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which naturally occur in the body. These ROS then stimulate TGF-beta, which spurs the chain reaction ultimately leading to dentin reformation.


However, Mooney noted that the power of the laser must be at a specific level of intensity and cannot produce any heat in order to be effective.

“It’s kind of like Goldilocks, too little won’t do enough and too much will become destructive,” Mooney said. “It has to be just right.”

To test their light therapy’s effectiveness, the researchers created a group of rats with tooth defects, by using a drill to remove pieces of their dentin. They then shined a laser on their exposed tooth structures and soft tissues underneath it. Sure enough, after 12 weeks, the team observed that new dentin had formed in the rats’ teeth.

Given their trial’s success, Arany and his team hope to test this type of dentin regeneration in human clinical trials, which could potentially alter modern dentistry. Currently, if a patient has a chipped or decayed tooth, dentists will use synthetic materials to fix the problem or perform a root canal if the tooth has become too infected. Yet, Arany noted that laser therapy could erase the need for these uncomfortable dental procedures, simply by regrowing the part of the tooth that is missing.

He also noted that focused laser therapy could be used to grow more protective dentin in teeth that have grown sensitive due to gum recession.

“As we grow older our gums recede, exposing our teeth root,” Arany, assistant clinical investigator for the National Institutes of Health, told “The root is covered by cementum, which is not as protective as enamel, so you get dentin sensitivity….What we hope is in tooth sensitivity, [laser therapy] is able to generate an intrinsic protective barrier on the inside of the tooth.”

Expanding beyond the world of dentistry, the researchers note that TGF-beta is found in other bodily tissues, such as skin and bone, and that laser therapy could potentially help regrow tissues in those systems, as well. Also, since TGF-beta is known to control tissue inflammation, the growth factor could perhaps be stimulated to control certain inflammatory diseases.

But for now, the team is focused on TGF-beta in relation to teeth, and they are hopeful that their laser therapy could be used in a clinical setting relatively soon.

“This laser is already a big part of the clinic, since so many of the clinicians use it for other purposes,” Arany said. “So the barrier to clinical trial translation is relatively low.”

A Little Weight Loss May Ease Sleep Apnea

 A Little Weight Loss May Ease Sleep Apnea 

A small amount of weight loss might help combat sleep apnea, a new study suggests. Finnish researchers said losing as little as 5% of body weight seems to lead to significant improvement in the condition — in which breathing pauses frequently while people are asleep, resulting in disrupted sleep and daytime fatigue. “Being overweight is considered the most important risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea,” said lead researcher Dr. Henri Tuomilehto, an adjunct professor at the University of Eastern Finland’s Oivauni Sleep Clinic, in Kuopio.

untitled (2)

Being moderately overweight increases the risk for obstructive sleep apnea by 10 times, Tuomilehto said. “It has been estimated that around 70% of all patients with obstructive sleep apnea are obese,” he said. “We believe it represents the first-line treatment in the early phases of the disease and has a good chance of curing the disease or at least preventing the progression,” Tuomilehto said.

For the study, his team randomly assigned 57 moderately obese people with mild sleep apnea to a yearlong supervised program of diet and exercise designed to get them to lose weight. Others in the study were given general information on diet and exercise. During four years of follow-up, those who lost at least 5% of their body weight (an average of 11 pounds) saw dramatic improvement in their sleep apnea, the researchers found. Those who maintained their weight loss saw an 80% reduction in progression of their condition, compared to those who didn’t lose weight.

Tuomilehto said many people who suffer from the condition don’t know they have it. “Obstructive sleep apnea is a highly prevalent disease and untreated it is a major burden for our health care systems,” he said. “Unfortunately, 80% to 90% of those with obstructive sleep apnea are undiagnosed and do not know or even suspect that they have it. If daytime performance and vitality is not what you would expect, do not blame your age first,” he said. “Suspect some-thing else, such as obstructive sleep apnea, until proven otherwise.”


Dr. Harly Greenberg, head of sleep medicine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY, said obesity is linked to sleep apnea because fatty tissue accumulates around the neck and narrows the airway, making it more susceptible to obstruction during sleep. The consequences of the condition include increased risk for high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, heart attack and stroke, Greenberg said. In ad-dition, sleep apnea may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Weight loss alone won’t be enough to help everyone with the condition, Greenberg said. “While a weight-loss program is appropriate for overweight sleep apnea patients, it should not be relied upon as the sole therapy for those with moderate to severe sleep apnea who are at risk for cardio-vascular consequences and for patients with any severity of sleep apnea who suffer from daytime sleepiness that adversely affects daytime function,” he said. “Those patients should be treated with therapeutic interventions such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or oral appliances that can produce more immediate improvement in symptoms and relief of daytime sleepiness while waiting for weight loss to occur,” he said.

untitled (3)

Another expert welcomed the new study findings. “It is always wonderful when the take-home message is that so much of our health is under our control,” said Dr. Lisa Liberatore, an otolaryngologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Our approach to treating obstructive sleep apnea is always to address any weight is-sues. We have many examples of when patients lose weight their snoring and apnea reduces significantly,” Liberatore said. “A proactive approach is even better. Telling and showing patients how weight gain—even modest amounts—can and will lead to sleep apnea is a powerful message.”

Although the study showed a connection between weight loss and improved sleep apnea symptoms, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.



From Rebecca McGonigle from the May 2014 Wellstyles Newsletter published by Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT).







Toxic jerky treats linked to more than 1,000 dog deaths

Toxic jerky treats linked to more than 1,000 dog deaths

Published May 19, 2014·


More than 1,000 dog deaths may now be linked to toxic jerky treats, according to a recent update from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The agency said that since 2007, there have been almost 5,000 complaints of pet illnesses related to the treats. The majority of the symptoms reported include gastrointestinal or liver disease, and about a third were linked to kidney and urinary disease.

untitled (3)

About 10 percent of the illnesses included other signs such as neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms, and about 15 percent of the kidney and urinary disease cases also tested positive for Fanconi syndrome – a rare kidney disease also associated with the pet deaths.

The FDA is still unsure of the specific cause for the reported illnesses and deaths, but most cases reportedly occurred after the pets had eaten chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats imported from China. No specific brands were recalled in the FDA’s latest release, but Dr. Jonathan Levine, an associate veterinarian at Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in New York City, said owners should always check the labels of whatever foods they give their pets.


“Always be aware of what you’re buying and where it’s coming from,” Levine said.

Yet that may not always be enough to keep pets safe; products stamped “Made in the USA” could still contain ingredients sourced from China or other countries, the FDA warned.


In 2007, some pet food companies voluntarily removed some jerky treats from the market. But, at the time, the FDA said it didn’t want to issue a recall without a definitive cause. Those products included Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky Treats and Chicken Grillers, made by Del Monte, and Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch dog treats, made by Nestle Purina.

The FDA has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to figure out what foods may be contributing to pet disease. The study will compare the foods eaten by sick dogs to those eaten by dogs who haven’t gotten sick, in order to determine if the jerky is really the culprit.

untitled (2)

So far, testing of jerky pet treats from China revealed low levels of antibiotics as well as the antiviral drug amantadine in some chicken samples. Although FDA-approved for pain-control applications in humans and in dogs, the agency prohibited its use in poultry in 2006 to help preserve its effectiveness.

The FDA does not believe amantadine contributed to the illnesses, as the side effects of the drug do not correlate with the symptoms seen in the pets; however, amantadine should not be present at all in jerky treats.

Chinese authorities have agreed to conduct additional screenings and follow up with jerky treat manufacturers, and the FDA has notified U.S. treat makers of the presence of amantadine in some jerky products. The agency will also continue testing these products for drugs and other antivirals.

The FDA cautioned pet owners that jerky pet treats are not required for a balanced diet. If your pet experiences any sign of illness, including vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy, contact your veterinarian right away.

High-Protein Diets in Middle Age Might Shorten Life Span

High-Protein Diets in Middle Age Might Shorten Life Span

 Millions of middle-aged Americans chow down each day on steaks, cheeseburgers and other protein-rich fare. Now two studies find that diets high in meat and cheese, when eaten in middle age, might shorten people’s life spans. However, in a surprise twist, the same research team found that eating lots of animal-based protein in old age might actually do the opposite.

“The research shows that a low-protein diet in middle age is useful for preventing cancer and overall mortality [death],” study co-author Eileen Crimmins, the AARP Chair in Gerontology at the University of Southern California, said in a university news release. “However, we also propose that at older ages, it may be important to avoid a low-protein diet to allow the maintenance of healthy weight and protection from frailty.”


In the study, the researchers looked at data on more than 6,800 middle-aged and older adults in the United States. They found that 50-year-olds who got more than 20% of their calories from animal protein—mainly meat or dairy products—had a fourfold increased risk of death from cancer or diabetes. And they had a nearly twofold increased risk of death from any cause over the next 18 years, com-pared to people on more low-protein regimens. Even middle-aged people who consumed only “moderate” levels of animal protein had a threefold increased risk of death from cancer, the researchers reported. This increased risk of death was much lower or non-existent in 50-year-olds who ate a diet high in protein sourced mainly from plants, the researchers added.

images (3)

However, the study also found that people older than 65 who consumed high amounts of animal protein had a 60% lower risk of dying from cancer and a 28% lower risk of death from any cause, compared to people who shied away from meat and dairy at this age. Similar benefits were seen in seniors who had moderate levels of protein intake. The majority of Americans are eating about twice as much protein as they should, and it seems that the best change would be to lower the daily intake of all proteins but especially animal-derived proteins,” at least in middle age, study senior author Dr. Valter Longo, of the University of Southern California, said in the university news release. “But don’t get extreme in cutting out protein; you can go from protected to malnourished very quickly.”

A second study, this time conducted in mice, found that a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet shortened the rodents’ lifespan. Overall, the findings provide “convincing evidence that a high-protein diet—particularly in the proteins are de-rived from animals—is nearly as bad as smoking for your health,” Longo said. He was the senior author of the study con-ducted in humans. The effects of protein consumption on a person’s risk of an early death may be partly due to the activation of natural growth hormone and a cellular growth factor called IGF-1, the researchers explained. “Notably, the activity of these factors, but also body weight, declines naturally with aging, which may explain why older people not only did not benefit but appeared to do worse if they ate a low-protein diet,” Longo said.


The researchers believe the studies will boost understanding about links between diet and health. “We have shown explicitly why it is the calories aren’t all the same—we need to look at where the calories come from and how they interact,” Steve Simpson, senior author of the mouse study, said. “This research has enormous implications for how much food we eat, our body fat, our heart and metabolic health, and ultimately the duration of our lives,” said Simpson, a researcher at the University of Sydney in Australia.


From Rebecca McGonigle from the April 2014 Wellstyles Newsletter published by Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT).




Common antidepressant may halt plaque growth associated with Alzheimer’s

Common antidepressant may halt plaque growth associated with Alzheimer’s

By Amanda Woerner
·Published May 15, 2014·


One hemisphere of a healthy brain (L) is pictured next to one hemisphere of a brain of a person suffering from Alzheimer disease, at the Belle Idee University Hospital near Geneva March 14, 2011. (REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

A commonly used medication could hold the key to treating or preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

New research published in the journal Science Translational Medicine reveals that the frequently prescribed antidepressant citalopram, also known as Celexa, could play a role in halting the progression of the brain-wasting disease.

Antidepressants like citalopram offer hope by targeting the brain’s amyloid beta proteins, which seem to be responsible for triggering the plaque build-up associated with the decline of memory and cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.

“The way the Alzheimer’s field is going is [we are] trying to find the initial insult in Alzheimer’s disease,” study author John Cirrito, assistant professor of neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine, told “We think it is the build-up of this amyloid beta peptide, and once it builds up, a lot of things go wrong.”

Amyloid beta proteins are produced by normal brain activity, but in Alzheimer’s patients, levels of this protein increase abnormally, clumping together to form plaques.

Previous research has shown that serotonin, a brain chemical thought to influence mood, seems to reduce amyloid beta production in the brain. In fact, an earlier study demonstrated that people with a history of antidepressant use had less amyloid plaques in their brains than those who never used antidepressants.

A popular type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can influence serotonin levels, so the researchers were interested in testing its effects on mice and human models. Using mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers discovered that the SSRI citalopram was able to completely stop the growth of brain plaques in the study group.

“SSRIs, by lowering a-beta levels 25 percent, were able to completely block that [plaque] growth,” Cirrito said. “The plaques never got smaller, and we couldn’t reverse the plaque [that was already there], but we could prevent it from growing.”

The researchers also tested citalopram in a group of cognitively healthy young adults. They discovered that after receiving a single dose of the antidepressant, the participants saw a 37 percent reduction of amyloid beta levels in their cerebrospinal fluid.

Currently, Cirrito said amyloid beta has no “known function” in the human body, and decreasing levels of the protein in humans doesn’t seem to have any ill effects on health. However, he noted that much research needs to be done before SSRIs can be proven effective at treating or preventing Alzheimer’s in humans.

“The SSRIs in this study were all given to healthy young people not at risk for Alzheimer’s,” Cirrito said. “We don’t know if the same thing will happen in people older, and not at risk for Alzheimer’s, and have no idea if it affects cognition,” Cirrito said.

Furthermore, he cautioned people against preemptively taking SSRIs in hopes of fending off or treating Alzheimer’s disease.

“There are certainly side effects [of SSRIs] that if they don’t need to be taken, it’s not a good idea to be on them until we know they can have an effect on Alzheimer’s, it’s premature to take them as a preventative measure,” Cirrito noted. “We’ve cured a mouse of a lot of different diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease many times, and those things haven’t panned out in people yet.”

Next, Cirrito and his team hope to move forward to study how SSRIs act on the brain to lower amyloid beta levels – and to continue to study the effects of SSRIs on different human populations.

“On the human side, we’re doing a similar study to what we just completed but in people [who are] older and at risk for Alzheimer’s, to see if we can affect a-beta in those people or not,” Cirrito said. “If not, then the utility of this for people with Alzheimer’s would go down dramatically.”

Vegetarian Diet Could Be Used To Lower Blood Pressure


Vegetarian Diet Could Be Used To Lower Blood Pressure

Vegetarians seem to have lower blood pressure, according to a new analysis. Could adopting a vegetarian diet be a useful strategy for lowering blood pressure? It is well known that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Controlling blood pressure through lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, is key for avoiding heart problems.

untitled (6)

But medical opinion has been split over whether a vegetarian diet is effective for reducing blood pressure. Different studies on how vegetarian diets influ-ence blood pressure have report-ed conflicting results. To clarify the issue, researchers in Osaka, Japan, have performed a meta-analysis of existing studies looking at the relationship between vegetarian diets and blood pres-sure.

The researchers analyzed the findings of seven clinical trials (looking at 311 participants in total) and 32 observational studies (looking at 21,604 partici-pants in total). In this review, “vegetarian diets” were defined as excluding or rarely including meat, but including dairy prod-ucts, eggs and fish.

images (2)

The meta-analysis found that vegetarian diets are associated with lower blood pressure, com-pared with omnivorous diets. The researchers measured the difference in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)—the unit blood pressure is measured in—between participants who followed a vege-tarian diet and participants who followed an omnivorous diet.

In terms of systolic blood pressure (the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats), the researchers found that the blood pressure of vegetarians was 4.8 mm Hg lower overall than omnivores in clinical trials and 6.9 mm Hg lower in observational studies. In terms of diastolic blood pressure (the pres-sure in the arteries between heartbeats), the researchers found that the blood pressure of those following a vegetarian diet overall was 2.2 mm Hg lower in clinical trials and 4.7 mm Hg lower in observational studies.

This reduction, the researchers say, is similar to the health bene-fits of a low-sodium diet or a weight reduction of 5 kg. Reduc-ing systolic blood pressure by 5 mm Hg is also associated with a 9% lower risk of death from coronary heart disease and a 14% lower risk of death from stroke.

The researchers consider a number of reasons why a vegetarian diet may be effective at controlling blood pressure. Vegetarians generally have lower BMIs and a lower risk of obesity than omnivores, probably because vegetarian diets have higher fiber and lower fat content than omnivorous diets. Because body weight and blood pressure are linked, this might partially explain the lowered blood pressure in vegetarians. However, other studies have found that a vegetarian diet lowers blood pressure regardless of body weight.

untitled (7)

Another suggestion is that vegetarian diets are high in potassium and low in sodium, but again, some studies have disagreed over the impact this might have. Some studies have also found that alcohol consumption is lower in vegetarians, com-pared with the general population. Alcohol intake can influ-ence blood pressure, but five of the seven clinical trials analyzed in this study were limited to par-ticipants who drank no more than moderate amounts of alcohol. Therefore, the results of this analysis were probably not influenced by alcohol intake.

Vegetarian diets are usually proportionally lower than omnivorous diets in saturated fatty acids and higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids—characteristics that are associated with lower blood pressure. And, finally, vegetarians usually have lower blood viscosity. This could affect their blood pressure.

There are some things the meta-analysis could not be sure about. For example, not all of the studies reviewed took cer-tain factors into account, such as how much people exercised or other lifestyle factors. Also, the components of the vegetarian diet differed from person to person and country to country. The researchers conclude, “Further studies are needed to explore the relationships be-tween specific foods and nutrients and blood pressure. Nevertheless, the results of the meta-analysis of the controlled trials suggest a robust relationship between consumption of vege-tarian diets and lower blood pressure.”



Provided by Rebecca McGonigle of the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) from the April Wellstyles Monthly Newsletter.

untitled (3)

untitled (2)

How to Get Motivated to Lose Weight

How to Get Motivated to Lose Weight

The success of a healthy weight loss depends on the type of diet? Not quite! In many cases the result depends on the motivation. So, when going on a diet you should first prepare your mind for these ‘body tortures’.

What interferes with your diet?

Perhaps you want to be slim, but you have too weak will power to go on a diet or to stick to one diet for a long time, i.e. you don’t have a strong motivation. And the reasons are inside you. The awareness of these reasons and overcoming them is the second step of the work with motivation.

The causes of weight gain

As anything else in our body, food has a certain function. If you believe that the main purpose of food is to reduce hunger, then you are grossly mistaken. Weight problems arise when a person begins to improve their mental state with the help of eating. So the first step of the work with motivation is to determine the causes of weight gain:

  • Stress. When eating certain areas of your brain are activated that’s why you begin to feel relaxed and calm.
  • Desire to be attractive. To be interesting to another person, you can start to copy his eating habits. For example, your new partner likes to drink a cup of coffee with cream and eat a delicious muffin before going to bed and such late dinner is an occasion for you to please your partner and stay a few minutes more together.
  • Dislike. You don’t like your body and perceive it as something hostile to your personality. And as the biggest enemy it doesn’t deserve care, so you can stuff it with different unhealthy and genetically modified food.

This terrible word “diet”

What is a weight loss for you? The constant overcoming of yourself? The rejection of the favorite food? Deciding to go on a diet, you are in fact between two fires: the rational desire to lose weight and emotional – not to do this. What should you do? Don’t exaggerate the situation: individually made up diet implies the exclusion of only a few products.

Diets don’t work?

When going to lose weight, you have some ideas what results should be obtained. If you can’t lose a pound in a week you lose the belief in this or that diet. Diets influence different people in different ways: if a significant decrease of weight is promised in a week, don’t think that exactly a week later you will lose your weight.

What helps?

You need to have some actual motivation in order to go on a diet and lose weight. And this motivation must depend on your lifestyle and emotional state. So, what can help:

  • Pride. It’s so nice when colleagues see you after vacations and exclaim: “You look so great!” Then you feel proud and want to hear that again and again.
  • Fear. Fear of becoming fatter than you are. Fear of health problems, problems at work and in personal life. Fear of becoming unattractive and unnecessary.
  • Envy. You want you friends and especially enemies to envy you, your appearance and this becomes a good motivation for you.
  • Love. Once you meet an interesting person, you have a desire to draw their attention, wear something unusual, but the extra weight is not desirable.

Why to lose weight?

Emotions as the primary motivation for weight loss are very effective because they create a strong desire to lose weight in the shortest possible time. But strong emotions tend to pass quickly. So, watch your emotions when going on a diet.

Reflection in the mirror

To wake up every day and see your beautiful body – is this not a reason to change your eating habits?

Photo credit: metin demiralay