Reporting their findings in the journal Stem Cells, the researchers say that dental pulp stem cells show promise for use in cell therapy and regenerative medicine, particularly therapies associated with the central nervous system.
Dr. Anthony Chan, who led the study at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, revealed that his team placed dental pulp stem cells from the tooth of a rhesus macaque into the hippocampal areas of mice, and they stimulated growth of new neural cells and formed neurons.
"By showing dental pulp stem cells are capable of stimulating growth of neurons, our study demonstrates the specific therapeutic potential of dental pulp stem cells and the broader potential for adult stem cells," says Chan, who also is assistant professor of human genetics in Emory School of Medicine.
Since dental pulp stem cells can be isolated from anyone at any age during a visit to the dentist, Chan is interested in the possibility of dental pulp stem cell banking.
"Being able to use your own stem cells for therapy would greatly decrease the risk of cell rejection that we now experience in transplant medicine," says Chan.
His research team is currently planning to study whether dental pulp stem cells from monkeys with Huntington's disease can enhance brain cell development in the same way those derived from healthy monkeys did in their experiments.