New hope of a potential cure for Diabetes
A recent study published in the Journal of Dental Research showed that stem cells from teeth can produce insulin in a glucose responsive manner – early research which means dental stem cells might one day play a role in treating type 1 diabetes.
What's new and noteworthy is that this study involved stem cells from baby teeth - taken out during routine dental care of children, age 7-11 years old. Here are some key takeaways:
- The study used stem cells from children's baby teeth to create islet-like cell aggregates that produced insulin in a glucose-dependent manner, a first step towards a potential cure for type 1 diabetes.
- This is the first time this has been done with stem cells from teeth. Stem cells can be preserved from any healthy tooth – each child loses all 20 of their baby teeth naturally, and may later have teeth taken out for braces, or wisdom teeth extracted.
- According to the researchers, this finding might enable "cell replacement for type 1 diabetes... by autologous transplantation of islet-like cell aggregates differentiated from a patient's own teeth." In simpler terms, this means a patient's own dental stem cells might be able to be used to create pancreatic islet cells that produce insulin, which might be able to then be transplanted into that individual, eliminating the need for the immunosuppressive medications necessary when a donor's cells are used for transplant.
Dental stem cells were discovered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2000; since then, the pace of research has quickly accelerated. Dental stem cells have already been used to regenerate dental bone and periodontal ligament in human trials, and are now being studied to see how they could play a role in treating conditions such as type 1 diabetes, spinal cord injury, stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attack), corneal repair and neurological diseases like Parkinson's.
- Researchers at the University of Miami's Diabetes Research Institute have reported evidence that dental stem cells from periodontal ligament are capable of differentiating into cells that secrete insulin.
- Similar stem cells found in bone marrow have been used in a Phase II clinical trial supported by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) with the goal to halt or reverse the autoimmune attack that causes type 1 diabetes.