Umbilical cord blood banking is currently being used in the treatment of many diseases and disorders and is undergoing clinical studies for numerous others. For those who missed the opportunity to bank cord blood or cord tissue when their baby was born, there may still be some potential options. One emerging area is the use of dental pulp stem cells.
Within the interior chamber of our teeth, is a substance called dental pulp. This pulp is made up of living soft tissue and stem cells. These stem cells may be collected from baby teeth that have fallen out naturally, or after routine extractions such as impacted wisdom teeth removal. The unique benefit of using dental pulp stem cells is that they can be collected later in a person’s lifetime; they do not need to be extracted at the time of birth.
Uses for Dental Pulp Cells
In the past dental pulp was being discarded as medical waste, but now scientist and doctors are realizing dental stem cells as a rich source for regenerative medicine. The stem cells in dental pulp are being researched for exciting treatments like spinal cord injury, corneal repair, and even regenerating new teeth to name just a few.
Currently, these cells are in research and clinical trials but are expected to yield fruitful treatments in the future. In the first human study using dental stem cells, cells from a healthy wisdom tooth were used to regenerate bone that had previously eroded in an area where there had been an impacted wisdom tooth. The potential for dental pulp stem cells to repair and restore bone opens a world of possibilities for future regenerative therapies.
In another recent study, researchers have successfully used dental pulp stem cells to treat corneal blindness. Using stem cells instead of doing a corneal transplant offers several advantages, as cornea donors are difficult to find, and there are often issues with rejection.
In the future, dental pulp stem cells may be useful in many other treatments, such as repair of the heart, brain, cartilage, muscle, and more. If you are having teeth pulled, or if your child is losing his/her baby teeth, now may be a good time to consider storing that tissue for the future.