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Stem Cells from Nerves Forming Teeth

Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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Findings published in the scientific journal Nature.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have discovered that stem cells inside the tooth's soft parts have an unexpected origin, namely nerves. The findings published in the scientific journal Nature and contribute to new knowledge about how the teeth are formed, how they grow and how they can repair themselves.

Our health and quality of life is closely linked to how our teeth feel. With age, the teeth more susceptible to infections, wear and damage, and it is an important duty of care to help people maintain good dental health. It is known that the tooth alive soft parts, the pulp, in addition to connective tissue, blood vessels and nerves also contains a small reservoir of stem cells. These stem cells can repair the tooth after injury by contributing to the formation of both hard and soft dental tissue. Researchers have long discussed the stem cell origin. By studying teeth in mice, the researchers behind the new study have been able to follow individual cells' fate.

We have identified a previously unknown type of stem cells, which unexpectedly belong to the nerves in the tooth - the nerves that normally associated with the most extreme tooth pain sensitivity, says Kaj Fried at the Department of Neuroscience , one of the leaders of the study.

The researchers discovered that young cells which are initially part of the nerve support cells, called glial cells, leaving the nerves early in fetal development. The cells replace the identity and becomes both connective tissue cells in the dental pulp, and to odontoblasts, the cells that produce the hard dentine during enamel. Today it is not possible to develop new teeth in adults, but the discovery of a new type of stem cells contributes in important ways to the knowledge and technology required for it will eventually be possible.

The fact that stem cells are available in the nerves are fundamentally very important and not unique to the tooth. Our results suggest that the peripheral nerves, which of course are virtually everywhere, can serve as important stem cell reservoirs. From here, multipotent stem cells leave the nerves and help to heal and regenerate tissue in various parts of the body, says Igor Adameyko at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology , who along with Kaj Fried responsible for the study.

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