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Dental stem cells able to generate milk-producing cells in mice

By Dental Tribune International
November 06, 2019

ZURICH, Switzerland: The ability of adult stem cells to generate various tissue-specific cell populations allows for the replacement of damaged cells and offers an alternative to classical medical treatments for tissue regeneration. Dental epithelial stem cells have been shown to generate all epithelial cell types of the teeth. However, a recent study has indicated that epithelial stem cells can also produce non-dental cell populations, such as mammary glands, in female mice. The discovery could help develop stem cell-based therapies that could be used for breast tissue regeneration.

In the study, the researchers removed all cells of mammary origin and injected dental epithelial stem cells and mammary epithelial cells into the areas where the mammary glands typically develop. They used advanced genetic, molecular and imaging tools that allow the precise follow-up of the transplanted dental stem cells in the mammary gland fat pad of the animals. “The results show that the dental stem cells contribute to mammary gland regeneration, and are able to generate all mammary cell populations and, even more strikingly, milk-producing cells,” said lead author Prof. Thimios Mitsiadis, from the Institute of Oral Biology at the Centre for Dental Medicine of the University of Zurich.

“These findings represent a major contribution to the understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the regenerative capacity of dental stem cells, and, furthermore, indicate the clinical potential of these specific stem cell populations,” Mitsiadis added.

The researchers also injected dental epithelial stem cells alone, without mammary epithelial cells. In this case, the dental stem cells formed small ductal systems consisting of branching rudiments. In some instances, this resulted in the formation of cysts. “This plasticity might be unique for dental epithelial stem cells, since all other non-mammary epithelial cells examined so far have never shown the ability to generate mammary ducts without the support of mammary epithelial cells,” stated co-author Dr Pierfrancesco Pagella, also from the Institute of Oral Biology.

The study, titled “Dental epithelial stem cells as a source for mammary gland regeneration and milk producing cells in vivo”, was published online on 22 October 2019 in Cells.

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