Instead of children hiding teeth under their pillows, today in the United States consideration is being given to a method in which milk teeth are extracted before they fall out to remove the dental pulp, rich in adult stem cells, which is then frozen in liquid nitrogen in stem cell banks for future use.
Dental pulp from milk teeth in children, which are lost between the ages of 6 and 12, and from normal teeth in adults, are rich in stem cells able to transform into various types of tissues. Thanks to various studies performed by several scientists, it has been demonstrated that these cells have the ability to generate new nerves, bone, and teeth after being transplanted into the gums of various animals.
The National Dental Pulp Laboratori, Inc. (a laboratory of the New England Cryogenic Center) which has stored cells and tissues for 25 years, and for the past 12 years umbilical cord stem cells (in the New England Cord Blood Bank), this year will start to store Dental Pulp Stem Cells (DPSCs), allowing people to store dental pulp from their children’s teeth in liquid nitrogen. In the United States there are already 2 banks offering this service, and it has been predicted that next year it will be a service advised directly by dentists.
Manager D.Matzilevic said that in a few years it will be a common practice, like various vaccines today. “These cells have an excellent potential to differentiate, since they can become bone, cartilage, nerve tissue, and teeth.” The doctor is enthusiastic about this new possibility and is exploring the feasibility of putting an artificial crown on the upper part of teeth grown using stem cells. Dental stem cells produce collagen and can be used in injections under the skin for anti-wrinkle treatments. “I encourage this practice because these cells can have uses that are still unknown.”
Many parents already store umbilical cord stem cells, which have proved to be efficient in treating some blood-related diseases, and now doctors are working to develop other therapeutic treatments. Cells found in the teeth are adult cells and have less applicable possibilities compared to embryonic cells, but like umbilical cord stem cells, they do not create any ethical problems. There are no absolute certainties about the application of dental pulp stem cells, but they are being studied. Scientists are verifying also if they can be used on other people (allogenically) without contraindications.
Doctor Rodriguez of Cord Blood Italy (a branch of the New England Cord Blood Bank in Italy) is very enthusiastic about these new possibilities. “We are very happy to be able to offer this new service also in Italy. Since June of 2008 we are the first company in Europe to offer this new service and we are very proud to be able to do so in Italy. The first operation to extract a tooth to store dental pulp was performed in Turin by Doctor Daniele Cardaropoli, and more operations are expected to take place in the upcoming months. Bringing about the most innovative biomedical alternatives, used for the regenerative medicine of the future is surely a positive aspect for development in the country and for the quality of life of the general population.