Cell Biology

Stem cell factories inside teeth

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Science  08 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6197, pp. 634-635
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6197.634-h

Development is thought to be one-way: Stem cells produce cells that mature into specific types, such as neurons and glia in nervous systems. But Kaukua et al. found nervous system cells transforming back into stem cells in a surprising place: teeth. Researchers knew that “tooth pulp” contains mesenchymal stem cells, which can mature into teeth, bones, and cartilage. But where those stem cells come from was not clear. So the team traced the cells' development, adding fluorescent labels to mouse glial cells around neurons in the mouth and gums. Some glial cells migrated toward the inside of teeth and transformed into mesenchymal stem cells, eventually maturing into tooth cells, they found. Identifying which chemical cues in teeth pulp signal glial cells to transform into stem cells, the team notes, could offer a new way to grow stem cells in the lab.

Nature 10.1038/nature13536 (2014).

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