A laboratory in Lanarkshire in the United Kingdom has begun harvesting stem cells from the teeth of pediatric patients. The hope is that these harvested cells will be available to cure diseases that the children may develop later in life.
Parents who avail this service will pay a monthly fee to BioEden, an American company, to freeze and store their child’s stem cells.
Currently, there are very few stem cell therapies that are used as standard treatments, but the hope is that this number will increase in the future. Considerable research in the field of regenerative medicine has many people pinning their hopes on the future success of stem cell-based treatments. Scotland is a major stem cell research center.
The aim is to stop the progression of the disease as well as reverse some of the damage it has already caused, says Tony Veverka, the group chief executive of the storage company which has its headquarters in Austin, Texas. Ours is the world’s first stem cell bank that is sourcing the cells from teeth. We are essentially a tooth fairy for the 21st century, he adds.
The company has already signed up 20,000 customers from around the world. This is a commercial service that costs less than $20 a month.
Parents wishing to avail this service have to preserve their child’s milk tooth in a little milk and ship it off to the nearest collection center. Here, the tooth is cleaned before extraction of stem cells can take place. Although only a few stem cells can be obtained from a tooth, they are multiplied in the laboratory until they are several million in number.
The stem cells are stored in a cryogenic lab in Yorkshire. These mesenchymal stem cells can be morphed into different types of tissues such as muscle, cartilage, bone, and fat. The lab also handles hematopoietic stem cells which are extracted from the umbilical cord and can be used to make all types of blood cells.
Precious Cells, partner to BioEden, also seeks cord blood donations to make available a database of hematopoietic stem cells to cure blood diseases. Dr. Victoria Robertson, head of clinical services, admits that stem cell research is still in its infancy, but the potential is huge, she says. This is the most exciting field of research right now, she adds.
The potential to create any type of cell and modulate a person’s immune system gives rise to endless possibilities. Although hundreds of studies are underway, not all will produce results, and some may take years to be proven or disproven.
BioEden has already had some withdrawals from its tooth stem cell bank to treat diverse conditions ranging from cleft palate to diabetes type 2. The best thing is that since the cells come from the patient’s own body, there is no rejection and need for immunosuppression. Parents are using the stem cell banking service in the hope that should disease strike, they will be able to treat it with the banked stem cells. It is an investment in your child’s future, says BioEden.