Collecting stem cells from teeth

August 7, 2009 8:29:51 PM PDT
Adult stem cells have the potential to cure dozens of medical problems and now collecting them can be as easy as going to the dentist. Javier Coll, 7, of Chester Springs has a loose tooth but instead of letting it fall out on its own, his parents have decided to have it extracted by his dentist so they can save the stem cells.

Dr. Carlos Gomez, a dentist with 4 kids + u too dental care in Newtown Square said it's a recent discovery that potentially life-saving stem cells can be collected from dental pulp.

"On the blood vessels and the nerve of the tooth is where we get the stem cells from," Dr. Gomez said.

Stem cell researchers such as Margaret Keller, Ph.D. of the Coriell Institute said stem cells hold a lot of potential to someday help cure disease such as Parkinson's Disease and diabetes. Stem cells from cord blood are already helping treat some cancers.. Keller said stem cells from dental pulp have the ability to turn into new bone, cartilage or muscle cells.

"They have the potential to be used for things like bone injury, cardiac injury and potentially muscle injury," Keller said.

Javier's mother Carolina Coll said they hope they never have to use the stem cells but want to save them just in case. "Just for a little peace of mind I guess," she said.

To collect the dental cells, Javier's tooth is pulled. Dr. Gomez said "it shoud have at least half of the root still on the baby tooth." The tooth is then packed up and sent to StemSave's lab where the cells are cultured and frozen.

The initial processing fee is $590. Then it costs $100 a year to store the cells which is less than it costs to save umbilical cord blood. Keller doesn't discourage anyone from saving dental stem cells but warns the research is still in the very early stages.

"I think the limiting factor is not clear how log it will take to go from banking a cell today to a clinical application in the future," Keller said.

For the Colls, they see it as an investment they hope will pay off it ever needed. They also collected their 7-month-old twins' cord blood and plan to save their five-year-old daughter Lucia's dental stem cells.

"I think it' the future, stem cells," Carolina Coll said.

Another benefit to the dental stem cells is you can save your own as opposed to using a donor's so there's no rejection. It can be done with baby teeth and wisdom teeth.

For more information about StemSave or to find participating dentists, visit: www.stemsave.com

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