Monthly Archives: January 2009

Stem Cells Undo Birth Defects

By injecting stem cells directly into the brain, scientists have successfully reversed neural birth defects in mice whose mothers were given heroin during pregnancy. Even though most of the transplanted cells did not survive, they induced the brain’s own cells to carry out extensive repairs.

Transplanted stem cells have previously shown promise in reversing brain damage caused by strokes, as well as by neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s. But their use in treating birth defects is relatively new. In recent years, a handful of research teams have been developing stem-cell-based therapies for rodents with real or simulated birth defects in the brain.

Joseph Yanai, director of the Ross Laboratory for Studies in Neural Birth Defects at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, in Jerusalem, says that stem-cell therapies are ideal for treating birth defects where the mechanism of damage is multifaceted and poorly understood. “If you use neural stem cells,” says Yanai, “they are your little doctors. They’re looking for the defect, they’re diagnosing it, and they’re differentiating into what’s needed to repair the defect. They are doing my job, in a way.”

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Chew on this: We’ll soon be able to grow replacement teeth

toothpulp

As long as there are hockey players, there will be niche markets for false teeth. But the real news about the future of dentures is that there isn’t much of one.

Toothlessness has declined 60 percent in the United States since 1960. Baby boomers will be the first generation in human history typically to go to their graves with most of their teeth.

And now comes tooth regeneration: growing teeth in adults, on demand, to replace missing ones. Soon.

It turns out wisdom teeth are prolific sources of adult stem cells needed to grow new teeth for you. From scratch. In your adult life, as you need them. In the near future. According to the National Institutes of Health.

For thousands of years, losing teeth has been a routine part of aging. That’s over.

“We’re there, right now,” said Pamela Robey, chief of the Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases Branch at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health. “A lot of people will go and never lose a tooth. With good health care and proper habits, there’s no reason to lose a tooth.”

The introduction of fluoride into drinking water and toothpaste is viewed as one of the 10 greatest public-health accomplishments of the 20th century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It did not occur without controversy. In the renowned 1964 black comedy “Dr. Strangelove,” Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) attacks the Soviet Union with nuclear-armed B-52s, hoping to thwart a communist conspiracy to “sap and impurify” the American people with fluoridated water.

Leslie Seldin has some perspective on this. He graduated from dental school in 1966 and was the editor of “The Future of Dentistry,” a report published in 2001 by the American Dental Association.

“When I was growing up” — in the ’50s — “reaching the teen years you’d develop enormous amounts of decay,” he said. It wasn’t until the ’60s, when most baby boomers were growing up, that fluoridation really started having a major impact.

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Body repair ‘could be ramped up’

A combination of drugs could trick the body into sending its repair mechanisms into overdrive, say scientists.

The technique could be used to speed the healing of heart or bone damage, they claim.

The bone marrow of treated mice released 100 times as many stem cells – which help to regenerate tissue.

Imperial College London scientists reported their work in the journal Cell Stem Cell, but said human trials were some years away.

The release of stem cells by the bone marrow is a natural part of the repair process – different types are sent to replenish tissue depending on the nature of the injury.

However, in some cases, for example the damage caused by heart disease, the repair is not entirely successful, and loss of function persists.

The theory behind the Imperial College research is to boost the quantity of stem cells released, which will hopefully mean a swifter and more complete recovery.

Techniques already exist to increase the numbers of blood cell producing stem cells from the bone marrow, but the study focuses on two other types – endothelial, which produce the cells which make up our blood vessels, and mesenchymal, which can become bone or cartilage cells.

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