The compound that causes bad breath could help fuel the development of stem cells from dental pulp, according to a study.
Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) – which has the characteristic smell of rotten eggs – appears to help teeth stem cells transform into liver cells, which could prove a valuable treatment for patients, researchers found.
H2S is a major cause of halitosis or bad breath, which is of concern to millions of people worldwide.
A team of experts took stem cells from dental pulp – the central part of the tooth made up of connective tissue and cells – obtained from the teeth of dental patients undergoing routine tooth extractions.
The cells were separated into two groups, with one group incubated in a H2S chamber and the other group acting as a control. The cells were analysed after three, six and nine days to see if they had transformed into liver cells. Their ability to function as liver cells was also tested, including the ability to store glycogen and collect urea.
The study, published in the Journal of Breath Research, from the Institute of Physics, suggested liver cells could be produced in high numbers of high purity.
Lead author of the study, Dr Ken Yaegaki, from Nippon Dental University in Japan, said: “High purity means there are less ‘wrong cells’ that are being differentiated to other tissues, or remaining as stem cells. Moreover, these facts suggest that patients undergoing transplantation with the hepatic (liver) cells may have almost no possibility of developing teratomas (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 of using fetal bovine serum to produce the cells, our method is productive and, most importantly, safe.”
Professor Anthony Hollander, head of cellular and molecular medicine at Bristol University, said much more research was needed.
He said: “This is interesting work in a new direction but there’s a long way to go to see if it is usable therapeutically. This is potential evidence but the real test of the liver cell is whether it metabolises specific toxins,” he said, adding that that requires enzyme function tests.”
Source: The Press Association