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'Open wide' for new stem cell potential
Date:8/22/2011

itive stem cells which have a high capacity to be transformed into different tissues. Prof. Pitaru and his fellow researchers have already succeeded in coaxing oral mucosa stem cells into becoming other significant cells, including bone, cartilage, muscle, and even neurons.

All this, says Prof. Pitaru, is derived from a miniscule biopsy of tissue, measuring 1 by 2 by 3 millimeters. "We are able to grow trillions of stem cells from this small piece of tissue," he explains. The site of the biopsy is readily accessible, and patients experience minimal discomfort and require almost no healing time. This makes the mouth a convenient site for harvesting stem cells.

A safe and effective alternative

Prof. Pitaru and his fellow researchers are currently in pre-clinical trials, implanting these stem cells into various tissues within small rodents. Their projects include researching the impact of the innovative cells as a treatment for chronic heart failure; neurodegenerative diseases; inflammatory autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's disease; and diabetes.

These diseases are most likely to affect the elderly, and the oral mucosa stem cells would offer a more safe and effective alternative to both embryonic and adult-derived stem cells. Despite their therapeutic potential, patients would be required to take immunosuppressant therapies when being treated with implanted embryonic cells to ensure that the body does not reject the foreign cells. Once implanted, embryonic stem cells often cause tumors to form, Prof. Pitaru says. "Stem cells taken from the tissue of elderly patients have growth limitations and reduced functional capacities."

Stem cells derived from the oral mucosa, however, avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors. Because they stay young, they behave as fetal cells, but there is no danger of rejection because they are taken directly from the patient. And they show no signs of developing the aggressive tumors tha
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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