Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stem cells from the "tooth fairy"

Doctors in India are looking at ways to turn “dental pulp” (part in the centre of a tooth made up of living connective tissue and cells called odontoblasts into heart cells under stem cell treatment.

The main doctor conducting the investigation – Dr Mohanty said: “The Mesenchymal type of stem cell inside the dental pulp are multipotent stem cells that have the potential to differentiate into a variety of cell types which can contribute to replacing muscle tissues or internal organs.”
In previous posts, we have talked a lot about pluripotent stem cells extracted from the skin known as IPSC (Induced pluripotent stem cells). But what other types of stem cells are there?
The three main types are:
  • Totipotent: it has the potential to become all other types of cells in the body. A fertilized egg is totipotent.
  • Multipotent: a small number of stem cells can produce only certain types of cells.
  • Pluripotent: stem cells that produce any type of cell in the body except those needed to develop a fetus.
Bone marrow and umbilical cord blood stem cells are undoubtedly present as a good source of stem cells but acquiring them is a tedious process. Extracting cells from dental pulp could be an easier and a non-invasive way unlike extracting bone marrow stem cells from bones which involve injecting into bones.

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