The compound that causes bad breath could help develop stem cells from dental pulp into useful treatments for patients, say Japanese researchers.
Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) smells of rotten eggs and is a common cause of halitosis. It seems to transform cells into liver cells, said the research team from Nippon Dental University, Tokyo. It took stem cells from the pulp – the middle part of the tooth that is made up of connective tissue and cells – of patients having routine extractions and then separated them into a group incubated in an H2S chamber as well as a control group.
These were analysed after three, six and nine days, to identify if they changed into liver cells. They were tested for their effectiveness, such as their ability to store glycogen, which is converted to glucose when the body requires energy, and collect urea, the result of protein metabolism, which is transported by the kidneys from blood to urine.
The findings are published in the Journal of Breath Research, published by the Institute of Physics. The researchers said their work showed liver cells could be produced in high numbers to a high quality. Lead study author Ken Yaegaki said: “High purity means there are less ‘wrong cells’ that are being differentiated to other tissues, or remaining as stem cells … These facts suggest that patients undergoing transplantation with the hepatic cells may have almost no possibility of developing teratomas (malignant tumours) or cancers.
“Until now, nobody has produced the protocol to regenerate such a huge number of hepatic cells for human transplantation. Compared to the traditional method or suing fetal bovine serum to produce the cells, our method is productive and, most importantly, safe.”
Head of cellular and molecular medicine at Bristol University Anthony Hollander said: “This is interesting work in a new direction but there’s a long way to go to see if it is usable therapeutically.”
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