Could Your Teeth Cure a Stroke?

We all know how important it is to keep our teeth clean and healthy (or maybe that's just me, married to a dentist).  They affect our whole body, not just our mouth, because gum disease can lead to all kinds of infections, problems in pregnancy and even heart disease.

But researchers have found a new use for our teeth that, let's face it, we all pretty much take for granted. What if stem cells taken from teeth can grow to resemble brain cells, suggesting they could one day be used in the brain as a therapy for stroke?

That's what science is looking at right now, according to newswise.com.  "Stem cells are unprogrammed cells in the human body that can be described as "shape shifters." These cells have the ability to change into other types of cells," science.howstuffworks.com reports. "Because stem cells can become bone, muscle, cartilage and other specialized types of cells, they have the potential to treat many diseases, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes and cancer. Eventually, they may also be used to regenerate organs, reducing the need for organ transplants and related surgeries."

There's even talk they can be used to clone humans.

"Stem cells are like little kids who, when they grow up, can enter a variety of professions," Dr. Marc Hedrick of the UCLA School of Medicine says at the Web site. "A child might become a fireman, a doctor or a plumber, depending on the influences in their life -- or environment. In the same way, these stem cells can become many tissues by making certain changes in their environment."

But, back to strokes and brain cells.  

Laboratory studies have shown that stem cells from teeth can develop and form complex networks of brain-like cells, newswise.com points out. "Although these cells haven't developed into fully fledged neurons, researchers believe it's just a matter of time and the right conditions for it to happen," the Web site notes.
"Stem cells from teeth have great potential to grow into new brain or nerve cells, and this could potentially assist with treatments of brain disorders, such as stroke," says Dr Kylie Ellis, Commercial Development Manager with the University's commercial arm, Adelaide Research & Innovation (ARI).
"Ultimately, we want to be able to use a patient's own stem cells for tailor-made brain therapy that doesn’t have the host rejection issues commonly associated with cell-based therapies. Another advantage is that dental pulp stem cell therapy may provide a treatment option available months or even years after the stroke has occurred," she says.
So keep those teeth in great shape.  You never know when you may really need them.

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