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According to latest studies, 1 in 50 people are living with paralysis due to injuries of the spinal cord. (DTI/Photo Alexander Raths/Shutterstock)
Dec 5, 2011 | News Asia Pacific

Dental researchers bite into spinal cord injury rehab

by Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

HONG KONG/LEIPZIG, Germany: In recent years, dental stem cells have increasingly been investigated for their use in medical applications, including the rehabilitation of lost or damaged biological function. Scientists from the Nagoya University in the Nagasaki Prefecture in Japan have reported that they could possibly help to repair injuries of the spinal cord, a leading cause of paralysis and disability.

Having transplanting human dental pulp stem cells into lab rats with severe spinal cord injury (SCI), they found that the animals regained significantly more limp function than through a transplant of human bone marrow stromal cells or skin-derived fibroblasts. According to the researchers, the cells not only inhibited the death of nerve cells, but also promoted the regeneration of severed nerves and replaced lost support cells with new ones, two main factors essential for functional rehabilitation.

“Spinal cord injury often leads to persistent functional deficits due to the loss of neurons and glia and to limited axonal regeneration,” they stated in the study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation last week. “Our data demonstrate that tooth-derived stem cells may provide therapeutic benefits for treating SCI through both cell-autonomous and paracrine neuroregenerative activities.”

Investigating different types of stem cells for their potential in SCI rehabilitation has a long track record in science. This September, for example, researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin reported that they had begun to implant foetal neural cells into SCI patients. The Nagoya study is the first to have shown a rehabilitation effect in SCI cases with stem cells derived from dental tissue.

Classified by the grade of impairment, SCI can have mild to severe health effects on patients, including total loss of biological function. Common therapies include surgery, long-term physical therapy and other rehabilitation efforts.

 

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