Dentists drill down on scienceThe future of medicine is in the teeth. Or at least part of it is.
By: Riham Feshir, Woodbury Bulletin
The future of medicine is in the teeth.
Or at least part of it is.
A Woodbury dentist has joined the group StemSave to help recover stem cells found in adult and baby teeth that can cure a wide variety of diseases.
Dr. Ned A. Nippoldt said recovering stem cells from teeth is a lot easier than resorting to the bone marrow option, but the research is so new that not everyone, even physicians, are aware of it.
Dental stem cell research is now part of the phenomenon that continues to develop with hundreds of thousands of clinical trials done globally.
StemSave Chief Executive Officer Art Greco said the New York-based company began preserving stem cells from teeth in 2008, however, the lab has been around for 30 years.
The company has been reaching out to dentists nationwide, including Woodbury, to grow its dental network.
Dental stem cells can be used to develop bone and cartilage, insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells for diabetics and beating heart myocites to cure heart disease, Greco said.
“These stem cells are applicable to a wide range of potential therapies to treat a number of different types of disease, trauma and injury,” he said.
The difference between stem cells in teeth and others in the body is in their plasticity, he added, which is why they can be used in various parts of the body.
Stem cells recovered from healthy teeth have the ability to grow outside of the body as well, according to the findings.
“They’re highly proliferative and that makes them valuable for therapeutic purposes,” Greco said.
To be able to preserve stem cells from teeth, an individual or parent of a child must visit a dentist to extract them without causing too much nerve damage.
“You can’t wait for the patient to pull them out; the dentist has to pull them out,” Nippoldt said. “Once the teeth have been extracted, you lose an opportunity to keep your own stem cells.”
Researchers say using one’s own stem cells is far more beneficial and convenient than using donor cells.
“The great thing about using your own stem cells is your body doesn’t reject them, you don’t have to take immunosuppression drugs for the rest of your life,” Greco explained.
Who will do this?
So far, Dr. Nippoldt’s office has yet to see a patient who is interested in saving their own stem cells, he said.
Although supportive of the research and the organization StemSave, Nippoldt has doubts about how much the new technology will actually be utilized.
He said many patients who have history of heart disease, diabetes or just want to be on top of things, may use it while they can.
The younger the stem cells – whether that’s baby teeth or wisdom teeth – the healthier they are.
“If you wanted some stem cells from your body, this would be the time to have it,” he said.
But he later added: “What happens in 20 years if the stem cells aren’t viable anymore?”
He will, however, continue to educate his patients on the procedure and methods used to save their own stem cells and what can possibly be done with them.
“Realize this is out there – and stay tuned,” he said.
But StemSave officials say stem cell preservation is the future of regenerative medicine that has been proven to grow whole, viable organs.
“The regenerative medicine phenomena is not something that we’re predicting, it’s actually happening,” Greco said.
Nearly 4,000 clinical studies since that have used stem cells worldwide have been done since 2003 and most of them were successful, he added.
“We view this as biological insurance,” Greco said.
The point of investing time, money and resources into using stem cells in general, and in this case dental stem cells, is reassurance that it will be there for the individuals when they need it.
“Clearly someone investing in this understands or would believe that regenerative medicine is going to revolutionize the medical profession,” Greco said. “And the best stem cells to use in these future therapies are going to be your own.”
Dental stem cells were discovered in 2001. It took a few years for experts to determine what type of stem cells they were and how they can be used in regenerative medicine.
Similarly, umbilical cord blood was not very well-known 15 or 20 years ago and there was almost never any use for it back then, Greco said.
“Now there are a number of clinical applications for cord blood,” he added.
The services are not free – those interested in preserving stem cells pay an initial fee to save them, then continue to pay annually until they need the cells.
“The individuals choosing to save their stem cells – whether it’s cord blood or stem cells from teeth – certainly feel that it’s a worthwhile investment to make because that’s the way medicine seems to be moving,” Greco said.