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Dental stem cells: a "wise" approach to treating corneal scarring?

PITTSBURGH, Pa., February 23, 2015 -- Stem cells from the dental pulp of wisdom teeth can be coaxed to turn into cells of the eye's cornea and could one day be used to repair corneal scarring due to infection or injury, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

They also could become a new source of corneal transplant tissue made from the patient's own cells.

Corneal blindness, which affects millions of people worldwide, is typically treated with transplants of donor corneas, said senior investigator James Funderburgh, professor of ophthalmology at Pitt.

Shortages of donor corneas and rejection of donor tissue do occur, which can result in permanent vision loss.

"Our work is promising because using the patient's own cells for treatment could help us avoid these problems," Funderburgh said.

Experiments conducted by lead author Fatima Syed-Picard, also of the Department of Ophthalmology, showed that stem cells of the dental pulp, obtained from routine human third molar (wisdom tooth) extractions, could be turned into corneal stromal cells called keratocytes, which have the same embryonic origin.

The team 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.

Other research has shown that dental pulp stem cells can be used to make neural, bone and other cells. Syed-Picard said they have "great potential for use in regenerative therapies".

The researchers hope to assess whether the technique can correct corneal scarring in an animal model.

Citation: Fatima N. Syed-Picard et al.; "Dental Pulp Stem Cells: A New Cellular Resource for Corneal Stromal Regeneration"; Stem Cells Translational Medicine, February 2015 DOI: 10.5966/sctm.2014-0115

Abstract: http://dx.doi.org/10.5966/sctm.2014-0115

Contact: James L. Funderburgh, jlfunder@pitt.edu

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Title Annotation:Preclinical Research
Publication:Stem Cell Research News
Date:Mar 2, 2015
Words:302
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