February 19, 2011
Research into the collection and use of dental stem cells are in the early phase,but already some are saying the future is promising. In Las Vegas,a couple of dentists will pull children’s teeth to ship them off so the stem cells could be harvested. “It’s a pretty easy process,” dentist Joshua Saxe said. “We just go in and take both of them out at the same time.” Between the ages of 5 and 12, children lose about 20 teeth. Hidden deep in the dental pulp are stem cells. “The benefits are going to be unlimited,” dentist Michael Saxe said. He said the stem cells found in teeth are the same as those found in umbilical blood or in bone marrow. Stem cells are capable of matching themselves to any part of the human body, allowing for the regrowth of damaged tissue and bone. Las Vegas radio disk jockey Craig Williams’ daughter Alyssa is 7 years old, the age when her baby teeth are falling out to make way for adult teeth. He said stem cells from her umbilical cord weren’t collected, so this is another opportunity to save them. “I think a lot of people might not have done it at the time, and this is almost a second chance,” he said. The teeth are shipped off to a lab where the stem cells are collected and evaluated. At Massachusetts-based Store-A-Tooth, CEO Howard Greenman said that storing a tooth’s stem cell is an ultimate investment. “The evidence really is there that once we freeze these dental stem cells, we’ll have them indefinitely,” he said. At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the research into dental stem cells is in the early stages. Students have extracted more than 50 teeth, harvested and grown in a laboratory. UNLV dental student Matthew Alleman said when patients learn about the research, they become curious. Alleman and his professor, Karl Kingsley, started the research last March. “Dental pulp stem cells might be a reservoir of cells we could use to help patients who have a variety of different health problems,” Kingsley said. The potential for dental stem cell research hasn’t been proven yet, he said. “This is nascent research, and it’s something that’s really exciting because it’s new,” Kingsley said. “So, we’re waiting to see.” Even Greenman with Store-A-Tooth isn’t sure the investment will be a total success. “We don’t know what’s going to come of these,” he said. “What we know is it’s just a matter of time and funding.” The use of dental stem cells hasn’t yet been approved by the FDA.
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