Vol.7 No.1: In This Issue…

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When Stems Branch Odontoblasts
Though tooth loss is becoming less common in developing countries, it is still a problem that has both functional and aesthetic consequences. Tooth replacement techniques, like tooth implants, bridges and dentures, are successfully used; however, none of these can create a new tooth. Regenerative medicine is the only path towards the creation of a fully functioning bioengineered tooth. In a recent study, researchers were able to generate a fully functional tooth by transplantation of bioengineered tooth germ into a mouse (PNAS, vol .106, no. 32 (2009) 13475–13480). Jafar Ai and his colleagues hypothesize that endometrial stem cells can be differentiated into odontoblast cells, which can later be used for tooth regeneration. (Hypothesis p.34)

Reduced Mercury Leak from Dental Fillings and Better Patient Acceptability
The practice of dental restoration represents an area where modern dentistry and materials science intersect, as the end result must achieve a balance between durability, cost, aesthetic appearance, and patient safety. Silver amalgams have long been used by dentists for fillings due to their durability and low cost but present potential safety concerns to young children and pregnant women. Tooth-coloured composite resins, while lacking the durability of amalgams, have become popular relatively recently as a result of their increased aesthetic appeal and improved safety profile. These resins are also effective in preventing caries as restoration sealants. Laurel Lee et al. propose a novel method that employs features of both dental restoration methods in order to solve a number of issues related to silver amalgams and composite resins. (Hypothesis p.21)

Junk in the Genomic Trunk
One unresolved question in molecular biology is the role of non-coding DNA or “junk-DNA”. Up to a decade ago, 95% of the genome was considered to be junk since it did not appear to code for functional proteins. However, recent studies have shown that many elements within “junk DNA” are very important for gene regulation, both at the transcriptional and the translational level. Vishnu Dileep argues that non-coding DNA has been an important element during the evolution of variability among organisms, functioning as a “buffer” to prevent the occurrence of deleterious mutations during crossover in meiosis. (Hypothesis p.28)

Will Space Debris Become the Next Major Environmental Disaster?
The 6th annual conference of the Astronomy and Space Exploration Society covered topics ranging from robotics and research to personalized space travel. On page 48, Bechara Saab gives a summary of the conference, and wonders how the increasing amount of space debris in Earth’s orbit will affect our planet’s future space exploration plans. (Opinion p.48)

A Proposed Mechanism for how Surgery Cures Diabetes
A new hypothesis postulates the mechanism by which bariatic (gastric bypass) surgery effectively cures non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). The demand for this procedure is increasing exponentially (an estimated 205,000 procedures were performed in the United States in 2007) without an understanding of how it cures NIDDM within days. G. M. Barabás proposes the existence of a Pathogenic Insulin Analogue (PIA) that is normally absorbed in the proximal gut and interferes with the function of endogenous insulin. (Hypothesis p.14)

How Breast Tumor Therapeutics Came to Be
Breast cancer treatment has come a long way in the last half century. A large part of this progress is due to the evolution of chemotherapeutic treatment in breast cancer patients. In this issue, Ridham Desai covers breast cancer therapy from the historical beginnings of chemotherapeutic treatment to the cancer cell targeted-therapy revolution occurring today. As this revolution continues into the future, Desai predicts that chemotherapeutic regimes will become patient-specific by the advent of molecular profiling, ushering in a new era of breast cancer treatment. (Review p.40)

From Disease to Design
What factors contributed to the European Renaissance and Industrial Revolution? Why did they not occur elsewhere on the planet where technology was similarly advanced? Shireesh Apte proposes that disease-driven genetic selection during major European epidemics could have increased the incidence of schizotypal traits, resulting in a populace highly disposed to invention. (Hypothesis p.6)

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