UK researchers are conducting a trial to test stem cells extracted from the dental pulp as a way to treat depression, according to Daily Mail, UK.
The researchers’ theory is that stem cells in the dental pulp, which can grow into different kinds of specialized cells, may help encourage the formation of new nerve cells in the brain.
They believe that if we have more nerve cells, the communication between these cells and between brain areas responsible for our emotions would be better.
In addition, stem cells are anti-inflammatory and it is believed that brain inflammation could be one of the causes of depression.
The trial follows the breakthrough finding that depression drugs may trigger stem cells in the brain, allowing it to make more nerve cells.
The exact cause of depression is not fully understood, but it is presumed that certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, are involved. Most antidepressants are designed to work by improving the secretion of serotonin and dopamine, but again, it is just a theory that is still unproven.
However, the researchers believe that nerve cell growth and the connections between nerve cells play an important part.
A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University has found that depression drugs and exercise could trigger the growth of stem cells in the brain.
In the new trial, 48 people diagnosed with depression will receive stem cells taken from the dental pulp of other people and (Prozac) fluoxetine, an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. The control group will receive only fluoxetine and not the stem cells.
Prof. Carmine Pariante of King’s College London said, “In the short-term, stress increases the production of chemicals in the body that are helpful in the fight-or-flight response. For example, stress increases inflammation, which protects us from infection.”
“However, psychosocial stressors that trigger depression — such as unemployment, marital difficulties or bereavement — are typically long-lasting, and in the long-term the increased inflammation reduces the birth of new brain cells and the connection between brain cells, leading to depression,” he added.
Prof. Pariante explained stem cells are also “anti-inflammatory so in addition to creating new brain cells, they can reduce the inflammatory effects of stress on the brain.”
“We know that stem cells reach areas where there is inflammation,” he added. “This is how they will find their way from the blood to the brain.”