There seems to be a use for every little thing in this world, no matter how vile or off-putting. This time, Japanese dental researchers have found that halitosis -- that is, bad breath -- is an ideal incubator for cultivating hepatic (liver) cells.
In a finding that could have far-reaching impacts on diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, stem cells harvested from human dental pulp became liver cells at an astonishing rate when incubated with hydrogen sulphide, the chemical compound responsible for bad breath.
Stem cell therapy treats damaged tissue by introducing new cells, but it can sometimes be difficult to safely and effectively produce these new cells. Study author Dr. Ken Yagaeki and his team believe the use of stem cells from dental pulp could eventually replace existing methods of stem cell production, two of which use human bone marrow and fetal bovine serum as source material. In fact, Yagaeki went out on a limb to show that dental pulp is a viable source of stem cells.
For Yagaeki, observing the resilience of teeth plagued by cavities made him wonder if there weren’t more stem cells in dental pulp than previously thought. Despite some skepticism from colleagues, he reports that 60-80 percent of human dental pulp cells are stem cells, up markedly from the previous estimate of 1 percent.
“Although nobody reported regeneration of those tissues from dental pulp, I had a hypothesis that dental pulp would be a good source of somatic stem cells,” Dr. Yagaeki wrote in an e-mail. “Of course all people denied my hypothesis. In the meeting of International Association for Dental Research, a chairman of my session called us as stupid.”
After this vindicating discovery, Yagaeki looked to test the impact of halitosis on the development of stem cells into hepatic cells.
After stem cells were harvested from the center of human teeth (Just like for Store-A-tooth – the teeth extractions were part of normal dental treatments), the samples were then split into test and control groups. Using a battery of tests, researchers were able to show that a very high percentage of the stem cells incubated in an environment with hydrogen sulphide successfully became hepatic cells.
Researchers are hoping these findings could help repair damaged liver cells using regenerated ones derived from tooth pulp.