University of Adelaide researchers
have discovered that stem cells taken from teeth can grow to
resemble brain cells, suggesting they could one day be used in the
brain as a therapy for stroke.
In the University's Centre for Stem Cell Research, laboratory
studies have shown that stem cells from teeth can develop and form
complex networks of brain-like cells. Although these cells haven't
developed into fully fledged neurons, researchers 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, Commercial Development Manager with the University's
commercial arm, Adelaide Research & Innovation (ARI).
Dr Ellis conducted this research as part of her Physiology PhD
studies at the University, before making the step into
commercialisation. The results of her work have been published in
the journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy.
"The reality is, treatment options available to the thousands of
stroke patients every year are limited," Dr 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
"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.
Dr Ellis and her colleagues, Professors Simon Koblar, David
O'Carroll and Stan Gronthos, have been working on a
laboratory-based model for actual treatment in humans. As part of
this research Dr Ellis found that stem cells derived from teeth
developed into cells that closely resembled neurons.
"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
"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
This work with dental pulp stem cells opens up the potential for
modelling many more common brain disorders in the laboratory, which
could help in developing new treatments and techniques for
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