New research out of the University of Adelaide promises an innovative treatment option for victims of stroke and other brain disorders.
Researchers have discovered that stem cells taken from dental pulp, the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue in the center of a tooth, can be grown to resemble brain cells. They can form complex networks of brain-like cells and, though they’re not exactly full-fledged neurons, have the potential under the right conditions.
New Treatment for Stroke Victims
This study is the work of Dr. Kylie Ellis, the Commercial Development Manager with the University of Adelaide’s commercial arm, Adelaide Research & Innovation (ARI). Dr. Ellis conducted this research during her Physiology PhD studies at the University and the results have been published in the journal, Stem Cell Research and Therapy.
“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. Ellis
“The reality is, treatment options available to the thousands of stroke patients every year are limited. 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.
“We can do this by providing an environment for the cells that is as close to a normal brain environment as possible, so that instead of becoming cells for teeth they become brain cells,” Dr Ellis 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.”
Professor Simon Koblar, David O’Carroll and Stan Gronthos, have been working alongside Dr. Ellis developing a laboratory-based model for actual treatment in humans. Dental pulp stem cell research opens up the potential for modelling many more common brain disorders in the laboratory, which could lead to the development of more new treatments to come.