In recent years, scientists have learned a great deal about the connection between our dental health and our overall well-being. We know, for example, that untreated periodontal disease can lead to an increased risk for heart attack and other severe health problems.
Researchers are also learning that aspects of our oral health may be used to correct other systemic medical issues. One such case in point is research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine that indicates stem cells from wisdom teeth may be used to treat a form of blindness that affects millions of people around the world.
Dental Stem Cells
Previous research has demonstrated that stem cells from dental pulp may be used to create new neural cells, bone cells and other types of cells. Ongoing studies are examining the use of dental stem cells in a wide variety of regenerative therapies.
Among the reasons dental stem cells in particular hold promise is that they can be used to coax a wide array of new cells of varying types. They may also be extracted from a patient to treat his or her own condition, which reduces the risk of rejection.
Wisdom Teeth Cells and the Cornea
Scarring of the eyes’ corneas caused by infection or injury causes impaired vision and can progressively lead to blindness. Corneal blindness is thought to affect millions of people worldwide, and corneal disease accounts for about 10 percent of all cases of blindness.
Using wisdom teeth stem cells, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine transformed the cells into the corneal cells called keratocytes. These cells may be used to repair corneal scarring and create transplantable tissue from a patient’s own dental pulp stem cells.
Researchers injected the keratocytes into the corneas of mice, which were integrated without complications. Corneal blindness is typically treated with transplants of corneas from donors; however, there is a shortage of donor corneas, and the rejection of donor tissue is not uncommon, which can result in permanent vision loss.
The findings of the study, which were published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, are especially promising for cornea treatment because the process could use a patient’s own cells.
Austin dentist Dr. Dan Matthews understands the links between your oral health and your overall health, and he is dedicated to helping patients restore and maintain beautiful, healthy smiles for life through highly personalized cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry treatments.
To learn more or schedule your consultation, please contact Dan Matthews, DDS, online or call our office at 512-452-2273. Dr. Matthews welcomes patients from and visitors to the greater Austin, Texas, area.