Tooth-Derived Stem Cells Make Brain-Like Cells

Maciej Urbanek

Treatment of strokes may be revolutionized as researchers from the University of Adelaide managed to create brain-like cells out of stem cells extracted from dental pulp. The study was led by Simon Koblar and has been published in an open access format in the journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy.

The researchers dental pulp stem cells (DPSC) of mice and exposed them to environmental factors which induced them into differentiating into immature cells that created complex patterns, just like neurons. Though the end product is not exactly like a neuron, they were also capable of electric activity. The researchers are confident that they can refine the technique and get more developed brain cells in the future. 

Each year in the United States, about 795,000 people will have have a cerebrovascular accident (also known as a stroke) and the episode will be fatal for about 140,000 of them. Those who survive may suffer permanent paralysis, weakness, and disruption to speech or vision. Stroke occurs when there is a disruption of normal blood flow in the brain, where there is too much (hemorrhage) or too little (ischemia). 

Treatment depends on the cause of the stroke, but there really isn’t much that can be done. Stem cells are highly sought after to treat strokes because of a potential to rebuild brain tissue and increase the quality of life by restoring bodily function. While this is still several years away before it is used as a clinical therapy, it has very promising future.

"The reality is, treatment options available to the thousands of stroke patients every year are limited," lead author Kylie Ellis said in a press release. "The primary drug treatment available must be administered within hours of a stroke and many people don't have access within that timeframe, because they often can't seek help for some time after the attack.

"Ultimately, we want to be able to use a patient's own stem cells for tailor-made brain therapy that doesn't have the host rejection issues commonly associated with cell-based therapies. Another advantage is that dental pulp stem cell therapy may provide a treatment option available months or even years after the stroke has occurred," she noted.

As the researchers work toward refining this technique, they may be able to address several other neurological disorders as well. 

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