1. Medical xpress – Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School researchers demonstrate for the first time that hair cells can be regenerated in an adult mammalian ear by using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulting in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma. This finding holds great potential for future therapeutic application that may someday reverse deafness in humans.
Hearing loss is a significant public health problem affecting close to 50 million people in the United States alone. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form and is caused by the loss of sensory hair cells in the cochlea. Hair cell loss results from a variety of factors including noise exposure, aging, toxins, infections, and certain antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. Although hearing aids and cochlear implants can ameliorate the symptoms somewhat, there are no known treatments to restore hearing, because auditory hair cells in mammals, unlike those in birds or fish, do not regenerate once lost.
2. Memphis Daily – Dr. George Huang of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is attempting to develop a revolutionary new root canal treatment that would actually regrow infected and lost pulp tissue in the roots of diseased teeth.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recently awarded Huang $1.8 million in funding, extending a grant he originally received in 2008.
As many as 60 million root canal procedures are performed worldwide every year. Huang specializes in endotontics, which focuses on treatments and prevention of diseases in the root canal system.
The patient’s stem cells would first be isolated, grown in a laboratory setting and then inserted back into the patient’s mouth. Within a two-month period, the root will regenerate.
It’s important to note that Huang’s treatment targets root disease in the early stages and is not a “whole-tooth” regeneration method, which is a different process entirely. So far, scientists in Japan have shown that they can completely regenerate teeth in small animals like mice.
“Our group has been able to demonstrate that we can isolate stem cells from the pulp tissue, let them expand or grow in culture dishes, seed them onto artificial or natural scaffolding materials, and then insert them into the canal space. Using a small animal model, we were able to demonstrate that we can entirely regenerate pulp tissue in the empty canal space,” Huang said.
Another function of the pulp tissue is to generate dentyne.
“The dentyne can also be regenerated,” Huang said. “The natural function of the pulp tissue is to maintain the homeostasis of the tooth and lay down the dentyne structure to sustain the architecture of the tooth.”
Similar research in other countries has been successful.
Testing has now moved to larger animals, including pigs and dogs, and clinical trials on humans could begin in the next 10 years.
Huang’s research also examines harvesting stem cells from a person other than the patient. He envisions potential for a stem cell bank in the future.
A breakthrough in root canal procedure would be good news for a growing number of people opposed to the current root canal treatment because extremely toxic anaerobic bacteria have been found and identified in and around some root canals.
Researchers have for the first time demonstrated that baboon embryonic stem cells can be programmed to completely restore a severely damaged artery. These early results show promise for eventually developing stem cell therapies to restore human tissues or organs damaged by age or disease.
Researchers completely removed the cells that line the inside surface from a segment of artery, and then put cells that had been derived from embryonic stem cells inside the artery. They then connected both ends of the arterial segment to plastic tubing inside a device called a bioreactor which is designed to grow cells and tissues. The scientists then pumped fluid through the artery under pressure as if blood were flowing through it. The outside of the artery was bathed in another fluid to sustain the cells located there.
Three days later, the complex structure of the inner surface was beginning to regenerate, and by 14 days, the inside of the artery had been perfectly restored to its complex natural state. It went from a non-functional tube to a complex fully functional artery. “Just think of what this kind of treatment would mean to a patient who had just suffered a heart attack as a consequence of a damaged coronary artery. And this is the real potential of stem cell regenerative medicine – that is, a treatment with stem cells that regenerates a damaged or destroyed tissue or organ.”
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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