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Study Demonstrates Stems Cells from Dental Pulp Turning into Corneal Cells

A recent study has shown that stems sells from the dental pulp can be transformed into corneal cells of the eye. The hope is that one day stem cells may be used to repair corneal scarring due to injury or infection.

Corneal Cells

Corneal blindness affects millions of people worldwide. Currently it is treated by corneal transplants from donors. “Shortages of donor corneas and rejection of donor tissue do occur, which can result in permanent vision loss,” Dr. Funderburgh, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and associate director of the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration.

“Shortages of donor corneas and rejection of donor tissue do occur, which can result in permanent vision loss,” Dr. Funderburgh said. “Our work is promising because using the patient’s own cells for treatment could help us avoid these problems.”

Experiments conducted by the team of Fatima Syed-Picard, Ph.D., of Pitt’s Department of Opthamology, have shown that stem cells of the dental pulp , obtained from extracted third molars (wisdom teeth) could be turned into corneal stromal cells called keratocyctes, which have the same embryonic origin.

These engineered keratocyctes were injected into the corneas of healthy mice, where they integrated without signs of rejection.

The team was also able to develop constructs of corneal stroma akin to natural tissue.

“Other research has shown that dental pulp stem cells can be used to make neural, bone and other cells,” Dr. Syed-Picard noted. “They have great potential for use in regenerative therapies.”