An Idea With Teeth

By Scott LaFee

May 20, 2015 4 min read

Nobody likes tooth decay, not least because the remedy involves fillings, crowns, bridges and worse. Rodents don't have that problem. They may lack pearly whites, but they benefit from the fact that their teeth are constantly growing. In effect, they repair themselves through continuous regeneration, though one consequence is that rats, mice, hamsters and their kin must constantly chew stuff to wear down incisors to manageable size.

Researchers at the University of Southern California are exploring this toothy regenerative power for human benefit, comparing the cells of mouse incisors with human cells that become molars (but stop developing after crown formation).

The main idea is to learn how to reactivate human tooth stem cells so that they resume growth. If that could be done, it might be possible to induce them to regrow roots or even whole teeth. The dentist of the future might have to pull a bad tooth but might replace it with a living tooth grown in a lab.

Body of Knowledge

One in 12 men are colorblind, which may explain some guys' clothing choices.

Number Cruncher

A single medium-sized banana contains 105 calories, four from fat. It has 0.4 gram of total fat, or 1 percent of the recommended total fat intake for a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

It contains zero milligrams of cholesterol, 1 milligram of sodium (zero percent), 27 grams of total carbohydrates (9 percent), 3.1 grams of dietary fiber (12 percent), 14.4 grams of sugar and 1.3 grams of protein.

Doc Talk

Pulsatile: beating, as in a pulsatile mass.

Phobia of the Week

Coprastasophobia: fear of constipation.

Never Say Diet

The world's speed-eating record for shrimp wontons is 380 in eight minutes, held by Joey Chestnut. The feat obliterated the previous record in what observers described as a wonton act of violence.

Best Medicine

First guy: I woke up this morning feeling so bad I wanted to kill myself.

Second guy: That's terrible. What'd you do?

First guy: I planned to take 1,000 aspirin, but after the first two, I felt better.

Observation

"Despite all our toil and progress, the art of medicine still falls somewhere between trout casting and spook writing." — American novelist and playwright Ben Hecht (1894-1964)

Medical History

This week in 1962, a 12-year-old boy's severed arm was reattached in the world's first successful replantation of a human limb with microvascular repair of vessels. The boy's arm had been severed 3 inches below the shoulder by the wheels of a train. With additional surgeries, he regained some useful functioning of the limb, including the use of his fingers in handling objects and the ability to identify objects by touch. The boy grew up to be a garage mechanic.

Last Words

"Kurt Russell." — American entrepreneur Walt Disney (1901-66). Disney collapsed and died from complications of lung cancer. (He was a longtime chain smoker.) Russell's name was found scrawled on a piece of paper. No one has ever determined what Disney meant, not even Russell, a 15-year-old at the time who had starred in several Disney movies.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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