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November 12, 2008 — Researchers at the Yerkes
National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have discovered
dental pulp stem cells can stimulate growth and generation of several
types of neural cells. Findings from this study, available in the
October issue of the journal Stem Cells, suggest dental pulp stem cells
show promise for use in cell therapy and regenerative medicine,
particularly therapies associated with the central nervous system.
Dental stem cells are adult stem cells, one of the two major
divisions of stem cell research. Adult stem cells have the ability to
regenerate many different types of cells, promising great therapeutic
potential, especially for diseases such as Huntington’s and
Parkinson’s. Already, dental pulp stem cells have been used for
regeneration of dental and craniofacial cells.
Yerkes researcher Anthony Chan, DVM, PhD, and his team of
researchers placed dental pulp stem cells from the tooth of a rhesus
macaque into the hippocampal areas of mice. The dental pulp stem cells
stimulated growth of new neural cells, and many of these formed
neurons. “By showing dental pulp stem cells are capable of stimulating
growth of neurons, our study demonstrates the specific therapeutic
potential of dental pulp stem cells and the broader potential for adult
stem cells,” says Chan, who also is assistant professor of human
genetics in Emory School of Medicine.
Because dental pulp stem cells can be isolated from anyone at any
age during a visit to the dentist, Chan is interested in the
possibility of dental pulp stem cell banking. “Being able to use your
own stem cells for therapy would greatly decrease the risk of cell
rejection that we now experience in transplant medicine,” says Chan.
Chan and his research team next plan to determine if dental pulp
stem cells from monkeys with Huntington’s disease can enhance brain
cell development in the same way dental pulp stem cells from healthy
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