Dec 042011
 
English: Cross section showing parts of tooth....

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TEETH could hold the key to helping spinal cord injury victims to walk again.

 
Scientists transplanted dental pulp stem cells into rats with broken backs and discovered the animals regained some leg movement.

It appeared the dental pulp, found in the centre of the tooth, stopped nerve cells dying, regenerated severed nerves and encouraged the growth of other cells supporting the spine.

The team behind the study at Nagoya University, Japan, claim the breakthrough brings hope to people with severe spinal cord injuries.

Dr Mark Bacon, research director at the charity Spinal Research, said: “Certainly, within the context of spinal cord injuries, this is a relatively new and under-studied source of stem cells which appears to show remarkably promising results.”

The Nagoya University team’s report said stem cells can be extracted from “adult wisdom teeth without adverse health effects”.

It added: “There are few ethical concerns regarding their clinical use. We propose that tooth-derived stem cells may be an excellent and practical cellular resource for the treatment of spinal cord injuries.”

Alex Rankin, of spinal injury charity Aspire, said: “We are excited by the prospect of a cure being found for spinal cord ­injuries through the use of dental pulp stem cells.

 
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