Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have recently found that stem cells from teeth can be used to repair eyes.
Experiments showed that stem cells of the dental pulp, obtained from the human third molar, or the wisdom tooth, could be turned into corneal stromal cells called keratocytes, which have the same embryonic origin.
Corneal blindness afflicts millions of individuals worldwide and is currently treated by grafting with cadaveric tissues; however, there are worldwide donor tissue shortages, and many allogeneic grafts are eventually rejected. Autologous stem cells present a prospect for personalized regenerative medicine and an alternative to cadaveric tissue grafts. Dental pulp contains a population of adult stem cells and, similar to corneal stroma, develops embryonically from the cranial neural crest.
After injection in vivo into mouse corneal stroma, human DPCs produced corneal stromal extracellular matrix containing human type I collagen and keratocan and did not affect corneal transparency or induce immunological rejection. These findings demonstrate a potential for the clinical application of DPCs in cellular or tissue engineering therapies for corneal stromal blindness.
The researchers injected the engineered keratocytes into the corneas of healthy mice, where they integrated without signs of rejection. They also used the cells to develop constructs of corneal stroma akin to natural tissue.
(picture courtesy of wikimedia commons)
“Other research has shown that dental pulp stem cells can be used to make neural, bone, and other cells,” says lead author Fatima Syed-Picard, of the university’s ophthalmology department. “They have great potential for use in regenerative therapies.”
In future work, the researchers will assess whether the technique can correct corneal scarring in an animal model.
The journal STEM CELLS Translational Medicine published the results.
Grants from the NIH, Research to Prevent Blindness, and the Eye and Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh funded this work.
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