Human dental pulp-derived stem cells promote locomotor recovery after complete transection of the rat spinal cord by multiple neuro-regenerative mechanisms

J Clin Invest. 2012 Jan;122(1):80-90. doi: 10.1172/JCI59251. Epub 2011 Dec 1.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult Stem Cells / transplantation*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Astrocytes / pathology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Survival
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Dental Pulp / cytology*
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / transplantation
  • Hindlimb
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Myelin Sheath / pathology
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Oligodendroglia / pathology
  • Paracrine Communication
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy*
  • Stromal Cells / transplantation
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins