In a recent study, Akihito Yamamoto and colleagues, at Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan used human dental pulp stem cells to treat rats with severe spinal cord injury. When these spinal cord-injured rats were transplanted with human dental pulp stem cells, they showed marked recovery of hind limb function. Detailed analysis of the implanted tissue revealed that the human dental pulp stem cells mediated their restorative effects in three ways: they inhibited the death of nerve cells and their support cells; they promoted the regeneration of severed nerves; and they replaced lost support cells by generating new ones. Yamamoto and colleagues therefore hope that this approach can be translated into an effective treatment for severe spinal cord injury
One of the most common causes of disability in young adults is spinal cord injury. Currently, there is no proven reparative treatment. These experiments by Yamamoto and his colleagues potentially give some hope to spinal cord injury patients that a stem cell population, specifically dental pulp stem cells, might be of benefit them someday.