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Keep Your Wisdom Teeth! Science Says They Could Help Cure Blindness

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Sink your teeth into the idea of curing corneal blindness.

No, really:  A research team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine believes stem cells taken from teeth may one day replace corneal donors as the primary method of treating blindness caused by damage to the outermost layer of the eye, reports the Huffington Post.

Recently published conclusions indicate the team was able to turn the stem cells of wisdom teeth into keratocytes, the stromal cells of the cornea, using the soft, central "dental pulp" of the pearly whites.

Once injected into the corneas of mice, these cells reportedly began replicating normally. Researchers were also able to create a lab-made version of the cornea's tissue.

The research comes as a sigh of relief to those people working with corneal blindness. According to a University of Pittsburgh press release, there is a shortage of donated healthy corneas.

It's also difficult to keep the body from rejecting implanted corneas.

In the release, Dr. James L. Funderburgh, a senior researcher, said,

Shortages of donor corneas and rejection of donor tissue do occur, which can result in permanent vision loss... Our work is promising because using the patient's own cells for treatment could help us avoid these problems.

Now that the team is sure the body won't fight stromal cells made from wisdom teeth, it plans to study the stem cells' ability to reduce corneal scarring during animal trials.

This research could be life-changing for the reported 39 million blind people around the world, 90 percent of whom reside in low-income areas.

Corneal blindness, caused by a range of injuries and diseases, is a major global health concern.

Citations: Stem Cells From Wisdom Teeth Seen As Possible Fix For This Common Form Of Blindness (Huffington Post)