Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are a prevailing problem worldwide, with over 250,000 Americans currently affected in which the individual is rendered either paraplegic (52%) or quadriplegic (47%). With an annual additional of 11,000 injuries, strong efforts have been placed towards the research of various stem cell lineages in order to repair damaged neural tissue in the spinal cord.
At the Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, researchers investigated the neural capabilities of human dental pulp-derived stem cells (DPSCs) obtained from adult wisdom teeth. These DPSCs, upon being transplanted into a rat SCI model, soon began expressing the specific neural markers needed to signal the differentiation process towards Schwann cells and oligodendrocytes – critical components needed in spinal cord regeneration. In addition, the researchers found that the rats exhibited a remarkable recovery in locomotor functions of the hind limb; alternative stem cell sources, such as or mesenchymal or skin-derived fibroblasts, were noted having substantially less recovery.
A complete biological analysis on the model revealed three key mechanisms resulting from DPSC use: the inhibition of apoptotic nerve cells, the promotion of axonal regeneration, and the replacement of lost oligodendrocytes via differentiation.
While the experimental results hold significant promise in using DPSCs as a therapeutic treatment for human SCIs, supplementary research must be performed under more clinically relevant conditions in order to demonstrate the therapy’s practicality in the heavily-regulated healthcare market.