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Eye teeth: Dental stem cells could be used to treat corneal scarring

2 March 2015
Appeared in BioNews 792

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh, USA, have shown in mice that stem cells from dental pulp, the tissue from the inner part of the tooth, can be transformed into cells of the eye.

The team collected dental stem cells from human wisdom teeth after routine extractions, and then induced the cells to turn into corneal cells called keratocytes. Weeks after injecting these cells into the eyes of mice, the researchers observed no signs of rejection and the mice corneas appeared clear.

The researchers also created cornea-shaped material that had similar properties and organisation of actual cornea tissue.

Corneal blindness is the fourth leading cause of blindness in the world and is typically treated using corneal transplants. However, there is a reported shortage of donor corneas, and tissue rejection can result in permanent vision loss.

'If we could generate an engineered cornea using autologous cells, which are the patient's own cells, and then use that to replace scarred tissue, we could bypass the limitations of current treatments', said Professor James Funderburgh, senior investigator on the study.

Lead author, Dr Fatima Syed-Picard, remarked: 'Other research has shown that dental pulp stem cells can be used to make neural, bone and other cells. They have great potential for use in regenerative therapies.'

The authors will next assess whether the technique can correct corneal scarring in an animal model.

The study was published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

Dental Pulp Stem Cells: A New Cellular Resource for Corneal Stromal Regeneration
Stem Cells Translational Medicine |  23 February 2015
Researchers engineer wisdom teeth stem cells to treat corneal scarring
Fox News |  23 February 2015
Stem Cells from Teeth May Restore Sight to the Blind
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News |  23 February 2015
Stem Cells from Wisdom Teeth Can Be Transformed into Corneal Cells
University of Pittsburgh (press release) |  23 February 2015
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