Stem cell research has intensified in recent years as there is great potential to treat many serious conditions and a new study by researchers at the University of Adelaide suggests that stem cells from teeth can grow to resemble complex brain-like cells.  This study was performed in the laboratories of the University’s Centre for Stem Cell Research and the results were published in the journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy.

The studies done by the research team, led by Dr. Kylie Ellis, the Commercial Development Manager of the University’s Adelaide Research & Innovation (ARI), have shown that stem cells from teeth can grow into complex cell networks and even though they have not developed into full neurons, the team believes that this can happen under the right conditions.

“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,” according to 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.”

Goals

Dr. Ellis explains the goal of her research, “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.”

Dr. Ellis, along with her colleagues, Professors Simon Koblar, David O’Carroll, and Stan Gronthos, have been developing a laboratory-based model for treatment in humans and over the course of this study, the researchers discovered that stem cells from teeth can grow into cells that are very similar to neurons.  This happens when the cells are put in an environment that closely resembles the brain which causes them to develop into brain-like cells.  The researchers hope that their work with stem cells from teeth will lead to further modeling of brain disorders in the lab to develop new treatments.