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Stem cells capable of repairing skull discovered


A stem cell population capable of skull formation and repairing craniofacial bone in mice has been isolated and identified by a team of scientists in Rochester, New York.

The discovery is a significant step being able to use stem cells to reconstruct bone in the face and head, according to a new paper published in natural sciences research journalNature Communications.

Biomedical Genetics Dean’s Professor, Eastman Institute for Oral Health at University of Rochester Medical Center Scientist and senior author Wei Hsu, PhD explained that the aimis to gain a better understanding and discover stem cell therapy for craniosynostosis. This is a skull deformity in infants that can lead to delays in development and life-threatening elevated pressure in the brain.

To avoid the body rejecting the donated cells stem cell therapy involves and subsequently a lifetime of taking anti-rejection drugs, a perfect match is necessary. The most painless and non-invasive way of harvesting and storing stem cells to ensure a perfect match is from naturally shed teeth, or those removed for dental reasons. The best stem cells are those harvested from baby teeth as they will not have deteriorated through age or pollution.

The focus of Hsu and his lab, including the study’s lead author Takamitsu Maruyama, PhD, was the function of the Axin2 gene and a mutation that causes craniosynostosis in mice. A unique expression pattern in the former led the team to investigate the activity of Axin2-espressing cell and the role they play in the formation, repair and regeneration of bone.

The evidence demonstrates that stem cells central to the formation of the skull are contained in the Axin2 cell populations. The lab tests used to make this discovery could also be used to find bone diseases caused by stem cell abnormalities.

The team, whose research was funded by medical research agency National Institutes of Health and stem cell research program NYSTEM, confirmed the population of stem cells it discovered is unique to bones of the head, with separate, distinct populations responsible for forming the long bones in legs and other parts of the body.