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Dental Stem Cells Treat Stroke

Stem cells taken from teeth can form complex networks of brain-like cells, suggesting they could one day be used as a therapy for stroke.

Although the cells developed at the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Stem Cell Research haven’t developed into fully fledged neurons, researchers there believe it’s just a matter of time and the right conditions for it to happen.

“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. The results of her work have been published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy.

“The reality is, treatment options available to the thousands of stroke patients every year are limited,” 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.

Ellis’ research found that stem cells derived from teeth developed into cells that closely resembled neurons. “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 work with dental pulp stem cells opens up the potential for modelling many more common brain disorders in the laboratory.