Spinal cord injury (SCI) often leads to persistent functional deficits due to loss of neurons and glia and to limited axonal regeneration after injury. Here we report that transplantation of human dental pulp stem cells into the completely transected adult rat spinal cord resulted in marked recovery of hind limb locomotor functions. Transplantation of human bone marrow stromal cells or skin-derived fibroblasts led to substantially less recovery of locomotor function. The human dental pulp stem cells exhibited three major neuroregenerative activities. First, they inhibited the SCI-induced apoptosis of neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes, which improved the preservation of neuronal filaments and myelin sheaths. Second, they promoted the regeneration of transected axons by directly inhibiting multiple axon growth inhibitors, including chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan and myelin-associated glycoprotein, via paracrine mechanisms. Last, they replaced lost cells by differentiating into mature oligodendrocytes under the extreme conditions of SCI. Our data demonstrate that tooth-derived stem cells may provide therapeutic benefits for treating SCI through both cell-autonomous and paracrine neuroregenerative activities.
Kiyoshi Sakai, Akihito Yamamoto, Kohki Matsubara, Shoko Nakamura, Mami Naruse, Mari Yamagata, Kazuma Sakamoto, Ryoji Tauchi, Norimitsu Wakao, Shiro Imagama, Hideharu Hibi, Kenji Kadomatsu, Naoki Ishiguro, Minoru Ueda