While most kids expect to receive money for their lost baby teeth from the Tooth Fairy, their parents are now being given the opportunity of spending anywhere from $500 to $2,000 to bank those teeth for potential stem-cell use. Wisdom teeth can also be saved.
According to Store-A-Tooth co-founder and chief scientific officer Peter Verlander, parents only “need to store 1or 2 teeth since the mesenchymal stem cells found in the dental pulp in the crown can be replicated. Mesenchymal stem cells, found in umbilical cord blood and placenta also form bone cells (osteoblasts, cartilage cells (chondrocytes), muscles (myocytes) and fat cells (adipocytes).
In the meantime, 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. As a result, studies are now continuing to find ways in which they can be eventually used to treat a range of currently difficult or impossible to treat such as Type 1 diabetes, spinal cord injury, corneal damage, Parkinson’s Disease, brain Injuries, heart disease. Muscular Dystrophy and Multiple Sclerosis, as well as arthritis. Leukemia, Crohn’s disease, Neimann-Pick Type C, periodontal disease and a variety of sports Injuries. They are also being used for cosmetic and anti-aging treatments.
Store-A-Tooth, based in Littleton, MA, is just one of a number of companies that are now banking baby teeth. Another is StemSave™ in New York City. Each have their own preferred methods of collection, including parents simply placing a tooth that has fallen out ion its own in a solution and mailing it to their storage facility, or having a dentist pull the tooth when its about to fall out.
Once the stem cells are extracted from the dental pulp and grown in culture, Store-A-Tooth reports that they conduct a total cell count and then confirm the presence of the expected stem cells using flow cytometry. They also preserve a portion of the dental pulp in its original state. This is done through cryopreservation, in which the samples are carefully cooled to a permanent storage temperature of less than -240° F in a vapor-phase liquid nitrogen cryopreservation vault. In the meantime, they issue a full report to their clients detailing exactly what is present in the samples they are banking for them.