July 06, 2016

Drill-Free Dentist Visits and More Breakthroughs

By Chelsea Follett
Ditching the Dentists’ Drill  

For hundreds of years one of the core assumptions of dentistry has been that decayed parts of teeth cannot be salvaged; however, this assumption is now being challenged. Scientists seem to have discovered a way to regenerate these areas rather than hollow out and refill them. A study that just won a prize at the Royal Society of Chemistry shows that contact with a new synthetic substance stimulates stem cells in human teeth to regenerate healthy tooth material. Unfortunately, the technology has not yet progressed to the point where dentists can regenerate an entire tooth. With more and more research in this area, however, there may come a time when stimulating stem cell growth could make visiting the dentist a drill-free experience.

AI and Eyesight  

Artificial intelligence is being used for yet another scientific breakthrough. This time it is helping to prevent people from going blind. Google’s DeepMind and the UK’s National Health Service will be using AI to research sight-related diseases, with a particular eye (pun intended) towards diabetic retinopathy, “the fastest growing cause of blindness around the world.” A DeepMind cofounder believes that 98 percent of severe loss of vision could be prevented thanks to the research. The project was inspired by a doctor’s request after seeing a DeepMind AI machine learn to play Atari games.

New Software Predicts Cancer Mutations  

Researchers at the University of Basque Country have created new software called WREGEX 2.0., which detects mutations that can induce a number of different diseases, including cancer, within our bodies’ proteins. Early detection of diseases, especially cancer, dramatically increases the likelihood of survival. This new software can analyze 40,000 proteins per minute, while previous programs took several minutes to analyze a single protein. Researchers all over the world have access to WREGEX 2.0., and the creators are continuing their work to further develop the software.

Monsanto Helping to Feed the World  

The UN estimates that we need to double the current level of food production by 2050 in order to feed a population of 9.7 billion, and Monsanto, the biggest seller of genetically modified seeds in the world, is helping with an innovative service. Since its acquisition of Climate Corp in 2013 for $930 million, Monsanto has offered US farmers a weekly fly over image of their land. With this digital analysis farmers are given information about where and more
importantly how much fertilizer and nitrogen can be applied to ensure optimal yields. Monsanto currently services 75 million acres of farmland in this way. Three years of record harvests highlight the success of this technology.