If you thought rats were just medium-sized disease-carrying pests that could destroy food supplies and (maybe) eliminate large portions of Europe in the Middle Ages, think again: they’re about get even better. At least, once my latest scheme cuts its teeth on the world.
Thanks to some recent innovations in rodent orthodontics, I might use these little pests to take a big old bite out of the law-abiding population of Earth, with sharp new choppers (say, extracted from sharks or wolves?) that I've hand-picked for maximum nightmare potential. With my toothy little beasts scurrying hither and thither in my wake, I know I'll really get the respect of my future-subjects.
And there's really no point in taking over the world if you don't have respect, is there?
The innovation that shall allow me to perform this act of diabolical dentistry comes from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Smit Dangaria has found a way to replace the teeth of toothless rats using stem cells.
Vital for this task is re-establishing the periodontal ligament, a thin layer of supportive filament that cushions a tooth against the gnashing, crashing, chomping motions of normal everyday eating. Without the periodontal ligament, replacement teeth either fall out or get reabsorbed into an animal's jaw.
In order to reproduce this fibrous film, Dangaria extracted stem cells from the periodontal ligaments of mice, expanded the cultures in an incubator, and spread the cell mixture onto dead rat molars like butter on a slice of toast. Except smaller and much more carefully.
Then he reinserted the molars into the empty tooth sockets of rats and watched as the teeth aligned themselves and anchored to the rats' jaws over the next four months. Thanks to the combination of the natural tooth surface and the progenitor cells from mice, the teeth were able to affix themselves in place like they'd been there all along.
Dangaria's work is the first time anybody has successfully reattached teeth using stem cells. The consequences for my own evil schemes are clear: I no longer have to content myself with the boring, unthreatening teeth that come standard with so many vermin. I can now plant new teeth in a critter like I was planting peas in a vegetable garden – a horrifying, omnivorous vegetable garden that I intend to use as an instrument of fear.
Of course, Dangaria imagines much more benign applications for his work. He intends to reattach human teeth lost to trauma, or assist in the prevention of gum disease. Boring.
I know how to think big. Big teeth. Big, sharp, pointy teeth, sourced from crocodiles and lions and all sorts of man-eating beasts. Find a tooth, spread stem cells on it, pop it into the rat's mouth, wait a few months and you've got ferocious little monsters ready to do your bidding. It's a crime against nature just waiting to happen.
Now I just need to figure out where Dangaria finds his tiny dental equipment.
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