Maybe the “Tooth Fairy” has been to busy in telling medical researchers, but are loose baby teeth a good source of pluripotent stem cells?
By: Ringo Bones
It might spell good news to conservative right-wingers in America who are the most vocal critic of stem-cell research citing the moral implications of destroying human embryos for medical research after it was found out that loose baby teeth could be a good source of pluripotent stem cells. Should healthcare providers start offering to cryogenically store loose baby teeth in addition to umbilical cord blood for future medical use?
Songtai Shi – a dentist and a medical researcher at the National Institutes of Health – experimented with his then –year-old daughter Julia’s loose baby tooth 12 years ago after noticing a little piece of red pulp was still attached. This gave Shi the idea to try to culture the cells of the loose baby tooth’s pulp to check for potential to produce stem cells. Back at the lab, he extracted the pulp and found out that it contained a number of stem cells – those special progenitor cells that can be used to replenish various types of tissue.
Unlike stem cells found in human embryos, which can become anything from skin to nerves to muscles, the stem cells in baby teeth seem to transform themselves only to into bone, nerve and fat cells, limiting their usefulness. They do, however, grow more quickly than in stem cells found in full-grown adults. Given current research results, It may be too early yet to suggest that families should start saving their young children’s baby teeth in an organ bank for future stem cell therapeutic use but given that baby teeth sourced stem cells doesn’t involve the destruction of human embryos – future research and therapeutic use could use religious conservatives’ criticisms on stem cell research and therapy might be put a ease.