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Surprising Source of Stem Cells Discovered from Nerves in Teeth

teeth stem cells nerve

Image credit: Julia Freeman-Woolpert.

It is well-known that stem cells are typically attributed to development of the different tissues within our bodies. Generally speaking, stem cells go towards one direction, which is differentiation.

However, according to the recent research led by Igor Adameyko of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, the differentiated cells could not only revert back to stem cells for repair performance, but they are also discovered in the place which is not likely to exist: nerve cells of teeth. In this case, it would be much helpful in offering an alternative source of stem cells, which could be applied for research or the development of therapies without requirement of embryonic sources.

We all know that there is living part called the pulp, which is located inside the center of the tooth. Such region incorporates blood vessels and nerves from the gums as well as cells closely associated with the structure and health of the tooth.

When the teeth are damaged, these cells would start their function in making restorative tissues. However, scientists have no idea of where such stem cells originate. By further study of tooth formation in mice, they are able to identify that the nerves are in fact the source of the stem cells.

According to Kaj Fried, the co-author of the paper published in the Nature, his research team has found the type of stem cells previously unknown, which are thought to be the nerves of the tooth; the nerves generally linked with the tooth’s extreme sensitivity to pain.

It is uncovered that some glial cells, as non-neuron cells supporting the nervous system, would not remain in the nerves during embryonic development. On the contrary, they disappear quite earlier in development and eventually turn into mesenchymal stem cells. And then these stem cells are capable of differentiating into osteoblasts which house in the outer regions of the tooth pulp, thus creating new dentin. The migration of these cells was found through using fluorescent markers to follow the trace of glial cells in its entire process of development.

As Adameyko adds in the press release, it is highly significant that stem cells are available inside the nerves, and this is in no way unique for the tooth. Their research clearly shows that peripheral nerves, that are found basically everywhere, could be used as important stem cell reserves. With these reserves, it is hoped that multipotent stem cells could be made from the nerves so as to help heal and reform tissues in different parts of the body.

This new study is incredibly exciting, because of its first demonstration that nerve cells are capable of reverting back to stem cell status. By doing so, it would offer scientists a practical approach to supplying the mesenchymal stem cells for further study, if they could identify the chemical signal which would induce the glial cells into reversion.

It is hoped that scientists would resort to alternative methods to verify their present findings before they could really start with growing and harvesting stem cells for the actual application.

Source: Karolinska Institutet

Journal reference: Kaukua, Nina, et al. “Glial origin of mesenchymal stem cells in a tooth model system.” Nature (2014).

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