Stem cell research gives hope to stroke patients

Associate Professor Simon Koblar. Photo by Randy Larcombe.

Associate Professor Simon Koblar. Photo by Randy Larcombe.
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Monday, 7 December 2009

Stroke-damaged brains could be repaired within 5-10 years using adult stem cells from teeth, according to one of Australia's leading stroke physicians who is pioneering new research in this field.

Associate Professor Simon Koblar from the University of Adelaide and The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is leading a research project that shows dental pulp stem cells extracted from teeth may prove far more beneficial for brain repair than other types of stem cells.

His research involving adult stem cells is the first of its kind in Australia and will be explained at a free public lecture at the University of Adelaide tomorrow night as part of the University's highly successful Research Tuesdays monthly seminar series.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in Australia, with 60,000 people suffering a stroke every year and approximately 30% of them losing their lives.

Assoc. Prof. Koblar says dental pulp stem cells have a natural ability to produce and repair neurones (nerve cells). Because they are in teeth, they can also be easily extracted and don't pose rejection issues for patients.

In 2007 Assoc. Prof. Koblar was awarded $100,000 by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney for a collaborative pilot study on adult stem cells with Associate Professor Stan Gronthos from SA Pathology. Stroke SA also provided additional financial support for this project in 2009.

The two scientists are senior members of the University of Adelaide's Centre for Stem Cell Research at the Robinson Institute.

"We have some very promising data from trials involving stroke-affected rats, who have shown an improvement in mobility when transplanted with dental pulp stem cells," he says.

Assoc. Prof. Koblar says more research needs to be done to prove the benefit in animal models before it can be trialled in humans.

The Robinson Institute is currently working with University of Adelaide graduate and stroke victim Peter Couche to set up a Stem Cell for Stroke Foundation in his name.

"Like all research, what we can achieve will depend on how much money can be raised," Assoc. Prof. Koblar says.

"Stem cell research has great potential to affect stroke patients and benefit the Australian community as a whole, because its impact in this country is enormous. Even if all we can do is to get someone's hand function to improve, that would be a magnificent advance."

An inaugural $75,000 collaborative research grant from the Centre for Stem Cell Research has been awarded to Associate Professors Koblar and Gronthos to continue their research into adult stem cell therapy for stroke patients.

WHAT: Research Tuesdays: 'Generating Hope'
WHERE: Law Lecture Theatre 2 (room 333), Ligertwood Building, North Terrace Campus, University of Adelaide
WHEN: 5.30pm, Tuesday 8 December
COST: Free. Please book by email: or phone: (08) 8303 3692


Contact Details

Associate Professor Simon Koblar
Clinical Advisor
Centre for Stem Cell Research
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5342
Mobile: 0416 928 658

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762