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Your Gums May Save Your Life


Stem cells now have an easy and superior source — gum tissue.As per latest lab report.

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The history of modern medicine has rarely witnessed anything as controversial as stem cell therapy. Exponents swear by its potential to change the face of treatment and alleviate suffering. Taking advantage of this, unscrupulous medicos across the world have used the therapy to make a quick buck. Their claims — which are, of course, unsubstantiated — have caused further damage, almost discrediting this treatment method that explores the possibility of introducing new cells into damaged tissues to cure a disease or an injury.

As the name suggests, stem cells are capable of growing into various types of cells found in the human body. They can help form bones, muscles and even heart and brain cells. Medical scientists hope they can offer an answer to many diseases that have been so far regarded as incurable.

An enormous amount of research is required to take the therapy to a standard where it can be put to use extensively. However, there is a problem — providing more and more researchers easy access to stem cells is a daunting task.

A team of Indian researchers has found a better source for at least one important type of stem cells. Scientists led by Mohan Wani at the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune, have shown that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) — which have the potential to regenerate muscles, bones and even nerve cells — can be extracted from human gum tissue.

Stem cells are of different types. Some are pluripotent — that is, they can be grown into all types of cells found in the human body. Human embryos are a good source of pluripotent stem cells. Most of the ethical issues relating to stem cell research are in connection with these stem cells.

The MSCs, on the other hand, are multipotent — that is, they can grow into only certain types of cells. Scientists have shown in the lab that MSCs can be used to regenerate bones, cartilage and muscles, but this is yet to become a line of treatment.

Studies in the past have shown that MSCs are present in virtually all organs and tissues in the body. But they are normally harvested from bone marrow, the soft tissue inside the bones. One of the reasons, perhaps, is that the technique to extract bone marrow has been around for more than three decades. Bone marrow transplant has been a popular method of treating many blood disorders, including thalassaemia and certain blood cancers.

However, the process of extracting bone marrow cells is painful, particularly for the elderly. “Harvesting bone marrow from the iliac crest of the pelvic bone is a painful course. Moreover, you need to extract the tissue in a large quantity as the number of MSCs in it is low,” says Wani.

Gum tissue, on the other hand, not only contains more stem cells but also of a more homogenous type. Bone marrow contains more than one type of stem cell. Besides, the process of harvesting stem cells from gum tissue is easy and leaves no scar, says Wani.
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The NCCS work, which appeared in the latest issue of the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications , says that gum tissue can be a superior source of stem cells for several reasons. The yield of MSCs from bone marrow ranges from 0.001 to 0.01 per cent. In case of gum tissue, “we are expecting a four to six-fold increase,” says Wani.

The study looks interesting, says Maneesha Inamdar, a researcher at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, who works in the area of stem cells. Oral cells are more accessible and hence could be a better alternative to bone marrow, she observes.

Another expert from Christian Medical College, Vellore, however, is not so hopeful. “I do not anticipate people lining up to have their gingival (gum) tissue biopsied to produce these cells, nor do I see any dramatic impact of the use these cells in the clinic in the near future,” says the scientist, who prefers to remain anonymous.

There are other benefits of stem cells extracted from gum tissue, says Wani. The scientists, who grew many generations of the cells in the lab, found that they could hold their inherent properties for much longer than those derived from bone marrow. “These cells exhibited no abnormalities and are hence safe for clinical applications,” Wani told KnowHow.

As the next step, the Pune researchers plan to use to the stem cells derived from gum tissue to regenerate different types of human tissues.

So take care of your gums, for they will take care of you one day, if needed.

Massaging of Gum with a finger and rinsing the mouth at least two to three times daily after  eating, is the easiest way to keep the gum muscles strong &  healthy.

You may click to see:->Home Treatments for Gum Disease

Source : The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)

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Sea Cucumber ‘New Malaria Weapon’

Sea cucumbers could provide a potential new weapon to block transmission of the malaria parasite, a study suggests.

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Sea cucumbers live on the ocean floor

The slug-like creature produces a protein, lectin, which impairs development of the parasites.

An international team genetically engineered mosquitoes – which carry the malaria parasite – to produce the same protein in their gut when feeding.

The PLoS Pathogens study found the protein disrupted development of the parasites inside the insects’ stomach.

Malaria causes severe illness in 500 million people worldwide each year, and kills more than one million.

It is estimated that 40% of the world’s population are at risk of the disease.

To stimulate the mosquitoes to produce lectin, the researchers fused part of the gene from the sea cucumber which produces the protein with a gene from the insect.

The results showed that the technique was effective against several of the parasites which cause malaria.

Lectin is poisonous to the parasites when they are still in an early stage of development called an ookinete.

Usually, the ookinetes migrate through the mosquito’s stomach wall, and produce thousands of daughter cells which invade the salivary glands, and infect a human when the mosquito takes a blood meal.

But when exposed to lectin the ookinetes are killed before they can start their deadly journey.

Work left

Researcher Professor Bob Sinden, from Imperial College London, said: “These results are very promising and show that genetically engineering mosquitoes in this way has a clear impact on the parasites’ ability to multiply inside the mosquito host.”

However, he said much more work still had to be done before the technique could be used to curb the spread of malaria.

“Although the sea cucumber protein significantly reduced the number of parasites in mosquitoes, it did not totally remove them from all insects.

“At the current stage of development, the genetically modified mosquitoes would remain dangerous to humans.

“Ultimately, one aim of our field is to find a way of genetically engineering mosquitoes so that the malaria parasite cannot develop inside them.”

Professor Sanjeev Krishna, an expert in malaria at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, said new treatments for malaria were vital, as there was some sign that the parasites which cause the disease were developing resistance to the current artemisinin drugs.

He said: “This is a very important first step in developing a potential new way to control this infection.”

Dr Ron Behrens, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the technique showed promise in theory – but he warned that introducing genetically modified mosquitoes could be fraught with practical difficulties.

“You would have to get the modified version to become the predominant species, and that has never been done in any setting before,” he said.

Sources :BBC NEWS ( 23rd. Dec’07)