Research With Bite

Researchers are studying how stem cells extracted from discarded teeth could one day improve the lives of people with SCI

By Jennifer Best

Imagine a world in which patients with spinal-cord injuries (SCI) carry their own cure. Within days, a week or a month of their injury, they could be inoculated with self-derived stem cells that could improve grip strength, enhance hand function and even help restore the ability to walk.

Researchers at Craig Center for Regenerative Research at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo., aim to bring that science fiction to reality in the not-so-distant future.

“I firmly believe we’ll have a major breakthrough in cure research in the next decade. We want a complete cure, if possible,” says Leslie Morse, DO, co-founder of the research center and endowed director of SCI research at Craig Hospital. The world-renowned rehabilitation hospital specializes in the neuro-rehabilitation and research for patients with SCI and traumatic brain injury.

Until 1998, scientists believed the central nervous system was a fixed system incapable of regeneration, unlike skin cells or muscle cells, for instance.

Science has since proven that neural cells can, indeed, regenerate, which brings new hope to an array of patients, including those with SCI, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injuries or stroke-induced damage.

“The field of rehabilitation medicine is such a rapidly changing and advancing field,” Morse says. “It’s the most exciting field of medicine these days. There are so many things happening in rehabilitation that it’s almost in the domain of science fiction. I’m really excited and hopeful we’ll see changes soon.”

 

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