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Living in the Future: Growing new teeth from mouse stem cells, person charged for shooting a robot, and reusable rockets for spacecraft

This week on “We are Living in the Future”:

Lost teeth are a problem for many adults in the US – and until now, the replacements have always been clunky – think George Washington’s wooden teeth, or modern day expensive polymer caps. But scientists at King’s College in London have discovered that human teeth can be created by mixing human gum cells and stem cells from mice – the first time a hybrid structure has been tried for dental regeneration. Stem cells have the ability to grow any type of cell, but human stem cells are difficult to acquire and frought with legal complications – thus the use of mouse stem cells. This means that in the future, we may be able to regrow adult teeth by using this hybrid of human cells with mouse stem cells – a huge leap forward for dental health. Theoretically, these teeth would even be a genetic match for the person in whom they’re implanted, as the human cell provides the pattern for the stem cell to copy.

A man in Ohio has been charged with damage to Police equipment after he shot a police surveillance robot. This is not the first time that Police have used surveillance robots, but it is the first time that they have been deliberately targeted, and the first charge of damage to them. Of course, had the man shot an officer instead of the robot, he would be facing assault or attempted murder charges – so this may be proof of the value of surveillance robots. The man had reportedly fired shots after Police arrived at his home, causing the police to call for the robotic assistance. As robots become more common, this sort of altercation is likely to increase as well.

SpaceX CEO and Entrepreneur Elon Musk announced positive results on the company’s initiative to make reusable rockets. Part of the great cost of space travel is the cost of rockets that are wasted – recovering a rocket shell would help reduce the cost substantially. The new reusable rocket prototype, nicknamed “grasshopper,” is designed to land anywhere “like a helicopter”, and the company released video of an early prototype 100-ft tall rocket rising to 300 feet, hovering, and then landing under its own power. Reusable rockets will mean decreased cost of each individual flight – perhaps bringing space travel into the realm of affordability for more people across the world.