Some Steamboat Springs residents are forgoing the Tooth Fairy, hoping their teeth wind up being worth much more than a quarter.
Steamboat Springs oral surgeon Dr. John Lupori offers patients the chance to store the stem cells in the teeth he extracts. Lupori partners with StemSave, a New York-based company that freezes and stores stem cells found in the pulp at the base of teeth. Science is moving fast, those involved said, and the cells might someday save the patient’s life.
“Potentially, they’re incredibly miraculous,” said Dr. Bob Pensack, who had his daughter, Miriam, save her cells. “They’ve already been miraculous in the lab.”
Stem cells exist throughout the body and differentiate into organs and tissue. Stem cells that could be used to grow new organs, for example, are the type that haven’t differentiated. Dental stem cells fall into this category, StemSave CEO Art Greco said.
“They are what is called very plastic, which means they can become different kinds of tissue,” Greco said. “That’s what makes them very valuable.”
The possibilities of dental stem cells still aren’t proven, Lupori said. But he, Pensack and StemSave have high hopes.
“In the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to re-create the bone, and you can re-create it in the shape of that person’s own bone using 3D printers,” Greco said. “The person has his own bone, and it’s bone that’s from earlier in his life. It’s younger bone that will last a lifetime.”
Miriam Pensack went to Alpine Oral and Facial Surgery to have her wisdom teeth pulled in November. When she awoke, she learned that her father had chosen to have her stem cells saved.
When Lupori removed Miriam’s teeth, he checked to ensure the pulp was there and put them into a preserving solution. The office shipped the teeth to New York. StemSave’s laboratory workers tested them for viable stem cells and stored Miriam’s tissue.
Pensack, a former emergency room doctor who now is a psychiatrist, didn’t hesitate when he learned he could have Miriam’s cells saved. He has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the muscle of the heart is abnormal without an apparent cause. It’s genetic.
If stem cell research advances to the state he thinks it will, people could have diseased heart tissue replaced with healthy tissue grown from their own cells.
One of the benefits of growing a new organ from your own stem cells is you don’t have any risk of the body rejecting it, said Pensack, who underwent a heart transplant because of his condition. He takes two drugs to keep his immune system from rejecting the organ, and he takes 13 drugs to treat the side effects of those two.
“You take them forever, and they’re all like chemotherapy,” Pensack said. “They’re poisonous to other organs.”
read more on CBS4denver.com