By Ryan LeClair, Associate Director, Provia Laboratories
The next time your child loses a tooth or has one extracted, you might want to skip the tooth fairy. Instead, you can “bank” it, which hundreds of parents are starting to do. Researchers are shedding light on dental stem cell banking –a secure way to store the stem cells in your child’s baby teeth, wisdom teeth or healthy extracted teeth to possibly be used to help fight serious conditions such as damaged heart or brain tissues, bone injuries, or even Type 1 Diabetes.
Much like banking cord blood at a child’s birth, dental stem cells can give your child a second chance. Even if you did bank cord blood, you can still bank dental stem pulp as they have potential differing treatments and cures. Cord blood has been proven useful to help with blood-related diseases and cancers such as Leukemia, anemia, genetic blood diseases and more. Dental stem cell pulp is believed to be more suited for generating solid tissues like muscle, bone, nerves, cartilage, skin and blood vessels.
How it Works
Ordinary cells in your body replicate to make new cells of the same type. For example, blood cells make more blood cells, skin cells make more skin cells and so on. However, there is another type of cell called a stem cell.
Stem cells are able to repair or replace damaged tissue. This is why scientists and doctors are so excited about the growing role of stem cells to treat disease, injury, and the deterioration of tissue due to aging. Additionally, after our birth and into adulthood, we keep a store of these stem cells in certain parts of our body. Different types of stem cells exist in different body tissues and in varying concentrations. One of the most well-understood and widely researched types of stem cells is the mesenchymal stem cell.
Mesenchymal stem cells can form tissues such as bone, nerve, muscle, and blood vessels. They also help body tissue to repair itself, and they plan an important role in healing by suppressing inflammation.
Though located in a number of places in the body, mesenchymal stem cells can be found in especially high concentrations in the healthy dental pulp of teeth.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that the stem cells in teeth can be “directed” so they grow into almost any type of human cell, including heart, brain, nerve, cartilage, bone, liver and insulin producing pancreatic beta cells. Every day researchers are learning ways in which these stem cells can be eventually used to treat serious diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Leukemia, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease, as well as spinal cord injury, corneal damage, brain injuries, heart disease, periodontal disease and a variety of sports injuries. It truly is amazing progress on the scientific front.
Once a child loses a tooth it is sent to a cryopreservation facility where it will be maintained until needed. The dental pulp has to have an adequate blood supply within at least 48 hours of being cryopreserved before the cells begin to deteriorate. That is why dental stem cell banking companies, such as Store-A-Tooth, provide a storage container and preservation solution that you can have on hand. Once the tooth falls out it is shipped overnight to the lab. Freezing cells in a youthful state preserves their future ability to generate replacement tissue and heal the body.
What it Means
“The younger teeth have characteristics that seem to give them more potential than other adult stem cells,” says Dr. Peter Verlander with Provia Laboratories. He says storing tooth stem cells could help shape the future of medicine. “Just like antibiotics revolutionized medicine, I think that we are coming to the point where regenerative technologies will also revolutionize medicine and change our lives.”
When compared to the cost of cord blood banking, dental stem cell banking tends to be more affordable and requires as few as one to two teeth depending on the processing methods used to garner millions of stem cells for multiple treatments. So the next time your child loses a tooth, remember–that little pearl could one day save his or her life.