New Studies Show Stem Cell Treatments May Grow Back Damaged Nerves and Maybe Even Teeth!

3 Nov

One thing is for sure, scientific discoveries and advancements have dramatically changed our lives. Not too long ago (about 20 years), only a few people owned a cell phone. Now, imagine leaving your house without one — you would probably have a panic attack!
Heck, they are not even “cell phones” any more. They are smart devices that are much more powerful than the computers we used to use at home just a few years back.
But, there are two sides to the coin. Some say this “progress” is not all good and many people are addicted to their devices and are becoming anti-social. One article states that a majority of people polled liked their fake Facebook life better than their real one. Is Facebook the problem, or the people using it?
Things that have the power for good can also be used for bad. This is not a judgment on the technology, just on how it is used.
For example, if there was technology available that could grow back the spinal cord of a paralyzed person, would that be a good thing?
Or, how about this: If the next time you have a bad tooth, instead of doing a root canal or pulling it out, what if your dentist could actually re-grow a replacement using your own tissue?
Would You Be Interested?
New research indicates that both may be a possibility in the not too distant future.
First, the spinal cord study: Scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Veteran’s Affairs, San Diego Healthcare System report that: “Neurons derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and grafted into rats after a spinal cord injury produced cells with tens of thousands of axons extending virtually the entire length of the animals’ central nervous system.”
According to the scientists, the human iPSC-derived axions traveled through the white matter of the injury sites and often into the gray matter to form synapses (connections) with the rat neurons. The rat axons did the same thing with human iPSC grafts.
Senior author Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurosciences and Director of the UC San Diego Center for Neural Repair, writes, “These findings indicate that intrinsic neuronal mechanisms readily overcome the barriers created by a spinal cord injury to extend many axons over very long distances, and that these capabilities persist even in neurons reprogrammed from very aged human cells.”
In other studies, grafted stem cells have formed new functional circuits across an injury site. Animals treated this way have experienced some restored movement in the affected limbs.
While There is Potential for Good,
There is Also Potential for Harm…
Dr. Tuszynski warns about moving this research to human therapy too quickly: “The enormous outgrowth of axons to many regions of the spinal cord and even deeply into the brain raises questions of possible harmful side effects if axons are mis-targeted. We also need to learn if the new connections formed by axons are stable over time, and if implanted human neural stem cells are maturing on a human time frame – months to years – or more rapidly. If maturity is reached on a human time frame, it could take months to years to observe functional benefits or problems in human clinical trials.”
Tuszynski states that 95% of human clinical trials fail, so they are trying to do as much as possible to identify the best way to forge ahead with complete information to give themselves the best possible chance at success with human subjects. If they do not take their time and do it right, their work will probably just result in another failure.
Can Stem Cells Re-Grow Teeth?
Maybe. A new study published in Science Transitional Medicine claims that a lower-powered laser can trigger stem cells in teeth to form dentin.
Dentin is the yellowish tissue that makes up the bulk of teeth. It is harder than bone but softer than enamel.
Secondary dentin, a less well-organized form of tubular dentin, is produced throughout life as a patching material where cavities have begun to form, where the overlying enamel has been worn away, and within the pulp chamber as part of the aging process.
Scientists have figured out that a blast of laser light induces some chemically active molecules to activate a growth factor that stimulates dentin growth.
Previous studies have regenerated parts of a tooth in the laboratory, but the hopes are this laser procedure will do it right in a patient’s mouth.
In this study, researchers said the low-powered laser (LPL) treatment demonstrated significant increase in dentin regeneration in rat teeth.
Will it Work with Human Teeth?
It may seem like a short bridge to cross between rat teeth and human teeth, but this may not be the case.
Rat teeth have evolved to take more physical abuse and thus may have more natural regenerative abilities than human teeth.
In fact, rodents have two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws, which must be kept short by gnawing.
More studies need to be done before it will be known if this LPL treatment can replace some dental treatments, so don’t put off that visit to the dentist and stop taking care of your teeth just yet.
Advancements in science seem to be coming every day, but don’t gamble with your smile!

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