Extracted Teeth Could Stock Stem Cell Banks

Japanese researchers coax soft, living tissue from inside extracted wisdom teeth into forming stem cells.

THE GIST

Japanese researchers have coaxed living tissue from inside wisdom teeth into forming stem cells.

The research opens the door for the creation of stem cell banks.

Stem cells can grow into any type of cell in the human body and could be used to treat diseases.

Scientists have found a new and relatively accessible supply line for stem cells that can grow into any type of cell in the human body -- extracted teeth.

Like cells from embryos, the soft living tissue from inside teeth can be induced to become what are known as pluripotent stem cells, which have the potential to form several different cell types.

Unlike embryonic cells, which are extracted from days-old human embryos, generating stem cells from dental pulp is a relatively non-invasive and non-controversial process.

Studies on stem cells taken from baby teeth and extracted wisdom teeth have been under way for several years, but a team of Japanese scientists this week changed the game, showing that dental pulp stem cells extracted from wisdom teeth can be coaxed into returning to a generic, form-any-cell state.

These cells then, in turn, can be used to create stem cell banks with lines that are genetically compatible with 20 percent of the Japanese population.  Follow-up studies likely will boost that percentage even more.

"Those cells have tremendous regenerative potential," said William Giannobile, editor of the Journal of Dental Research, which published the study.

Of six cell lines tested, researchers were able to establish five viable lines, reports lead scientist Ken-ichi Tezuka, from Gifu University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan.

"One of the exciting things about dental pulp stem cells is how accessible they are, especially when you think about primary teeth. We and others have been able to extract stem cells from teeth that would have fallen out anyway," added Jacques N ör, a professor and researcher at University of Michigan's School of Dentistry.

The aim of stem cell research is to create techniques to replace diseased cells and regenerate the body.

"One thing we don't want to do is create false expectations," Nor told Discovery News. "We know this isn't going to be a cure for everything. As long as people keep this in mind, it may be useful in five, 10, 15 years from now as a treatment for significant diseases."

"This study is an important first step, showing the potential of opening stem cell banks. You wouldn't have to give up your own teeth to take advantage of this," said Giannobile. "The emphasis will now be on the safety aspects to make sure the cells that have been derived don't have tumorigenic potential."

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