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Dental pulp cells may hold key to treatment of Parkinson's disease

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Cells derived from the inside of a tooth might someday prove an effective way to treat the brains of people suffering from Parkinson's disease.

A study in the May 1 issue of the European Journal of Neuroscience shows dental pulp cells provide great support for nerve cells lost in Parkinson's disease and could be transplanted directly into the affected parts of the brain. The study's lead author is Christopher Nosrat, an assistant professor of biological and materials sciences at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

This is not the first test of stem cells as a therapy for Parkinson's disease-type illnesses, known as neurodegenerative diseases, but Nosrat noted that it is the first to use post-natal stem cells grown from more readily available tooth pulp in the nervous system.

Using dental pulp has other advantages besides its availability, Nosrat said. The cells produce a host of beneficial "neurotrophic" factors, which promote nerve cell survival.

Parkinson's disease is characterized by symptoms including tremors of the hands, arms or legs, rigidity of the body and difficulty balancing while standing or walking. Parkinson's affects nerve cells in the part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which is responsible for control of voluntary movement. An estimated 1 million Americans suffer from Parkinson's disease, for which there is no cure.

Nosrat's study involved evaluating the potential of injecting tooth cells into brain cells as a possible cell-based therapy for Parkinson's. He was testing whether the tooth cells could provide neurotrophic factors to support dying nerve cells and replace dead cells.

Nosrat also has studied dental pulp stem cells as a treatment for spinal cord injuries and said applying that knowledge to treatment of neurodegenerative disease was the next logical step.

He used the same general approach for this Parkinson's study: researchers extract a tooth
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Contact: Colleen Newvine
cnewvine@umich.edu
734-647-4411
University of Michigan
4-May-2004


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