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Yerkes Researchers Find Stem Cells From Monkey Teeth Can Stimulate Growth And Generation Of Brain Cells

November 8, 2008

Rhesus monkey dental stem cells show the ability to produce different types of cells, illustrating the potential for cell therapy and regenerative medicine.

Media Contacts

Emily Rios, 404-727-7732, erios@emory.edu; Lisa Newbern, 404-727-7709, lisa.newbern@emory.edu

ATLANTA — Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have discovered dental pulp stem cells can stimulate growth and generation of several types of neural cells. Findings from this study, available in October issue of the journal Stem Cells, suggest dental pulp stem cells show promise for use in cell therapy and regenerative medicine, particularly therapies associated with the central nervous system.

Dental stem cells are part of adult stem cells, one of the two major divisions of stem cell research. Adult stem cells have the ability to form many different types of cells, promising great therapeutic potential, especially for diseases such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Already, dental pulp stem cells have been used for regeneration of dental and craniofacial cells.

Yerkes researcher Anthony Chan, DVM, PhD, and his team of researchers placed dental pulp stem cells from the tooth of a rhesus macaque into the hippocampal areas of mice. The dental pulp stem cells stimulated growth of new neural cells, and many of the new neural cells formed neurons. “By showing dental pulp stem cells are capable of growing cells that produce fat, cartilage and bone, our study demonstrates the specific therapeutic potential of dental pulp stem cells and the broader potential for adult stem cells,” said Chan.

Because dental pulp stem cells can be isolated from anyone at any age during a visit to the dentist, Chan is interested in the possibility of dental pulp stem cell banking. “Being able to use your own stem cells for therapy would greatly decrease the risk of cell rejection that we now experience in transplant medicine,” said Chan.

Chan and his research team next plan to determine if dental pulp stem cells from monkeys with Huntington’s disease can enhance brain cell development in the same way dental pulp stem cells from healthy monkeys do.

For more than seven decades, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, has been dedicated to conducting essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve the health and well-being of humans and nonhuman primates. Today, the center, as one of only eight National Institutes of Health–funded national primate research centers, provides leadership, training and resources to foster scientific creativity, collaboration and discoveries. Yerkes-based research is grounded in scientific integrity, expert knowledge, respect for colleagues, an open exchange of ideas and compassionate, quality animal care.

Within the fields of microbiology and immunology, neuroscience, psychobiology and sensory-motor systems, the center’s research programs are seeking ways to: develop vaccines for infectious and noninfectious diseases, such as AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease; treat cocaine addiction; interpret brain activity through imaging; increase understanding of progressive illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; unlock the secrets of memory; determine behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy; address vision disorders; and advance knowledge about the evolutionary links between biology and behavior.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include the Emory University School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and Rollins School of Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. Emory Healthcare includes: The Emory Clinic, Emory-Children's Center, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Wesley Woods Center, and Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.5 billion budget, 17,600 employees, 2,500 full-time and 1,500 affiliated faculty, 4,700 students and trainees, and a $5.7 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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