Since 2005, with the discovery of stem cells in teeth, researchers have been actively exploring the possibilities of this groundbreaking field. Now, scientists from the University of Adelaide have discovered that dental pulp stem cells can grow to resemble brain cells. This suggests the possibility of new therapy options for stroke patients.
The Promising Future of Dental Pulp Stem Cells
Adult stem cells have been found in the brain, bone marrow, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, skin, heart, gut, liver and now, teeth. They are thought to live in a specific area of each tissue. They remain dormant but are able to begin dividing and creating new cells when activated by injury or disease.
Isolating multi-potent stem cells, such as those found in dental pulp, make it possible to study their differentiation into a variety of cells types. They have the potential to grow into cells to repair damaged cardiac tissue following a heart attack, generate nerve tissue, repair muscle, and generate bone, cartilage and fat.
This exciting new research adds the possible treatment of brain disorders such as stroke to the list.
New Possible Treatments for Stroke Patients
Researchers at the University’s Centre for Stem Cell Research has shown that dental pulp stem cells can develop and form complex networks of brain-like cells. They aren’t quite neurons yet but researchers believe it’s right around the corner.
“Stem cells from teeth have great potential to grow into new brain or nerve cells, and this could potentially assist with treatments of brain disorders, such as stroke,” says Dr. Kylie Ellis, Commercial Development Manager with the University’s commercial arm, Adelaide Research & Innovation (ARI).
“The reality is, treatment options available to the thousands of stroke patients every year are limited,” Dr. Ellis says. “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 says.
“What we developed wasn’t identical to normal neurons, but the new cells shared very similar properties to neurons. They also formed complex networks and communicated through simple electrical activity, like you might see between cells in the developing brain.”
This opens up the possibility for the treatment of many other common brain disorders.
Want to Save Your Own Stem Cells?
Cord blood banking has become common in recent years but did you know that you can also bank your own dental pulp stem cells?
Talk to Dr. Hall about saving a tooth following an extraction or even banking your child’s baby teeth. Many public and private banks have been established for use in the event of future injury or disease. Dr. Andrew Hall can discuss your options with you during your next checkup.