The reason to keep baby teeth isn’t just sentimental anymore.
A burgeoning development may run the Tooth Fairy out of business.
According to emerging research, baby teeth may be far too valuable to leave under pillows. CBS4 reports that 9-year-old Alex Hess of Lakewood, Colo. is part of a “very exciting and promising” time in biotechnology, all thanks to his milk teeth.
Jennifer Hess, Alex’s mother, tells reporters that Alex was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 4. Desperate for a way to improve her son’s quality of life, Hess researched various treatment options and learned of cases in which stem cells were used to cure Type 1 diabetes. Companies such as Cord Blood Registry have been banking newborn’s umbilical cord blood as early as 1992, but Hess had not done so with Alex’s blood. Fortunately, there are other options available.
In 2003, Songtao Shi and his associates published research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that demonstrates the presence of potent stem cells in recently extracted baby teeth. According to Scientific American, the idea came to him as he was cleaning his 6-year-old daughter’s baby tooth to be placed under her pillow. Not only are these stem cells invaluable because of their versatility and relatively quick growth, but they greatly reduce the probability of immunorejection should the donor need the stem cells at some point in the future.
According to CBS4, Alex’s dentist extracted four baby teeth using the Store-A-Tooth kit, then sent the samples to a cryopreservation facility in 2013. While the extent to which these stem cells can be used is still unclear, the Hess family considers Alex’s baby teeth to be an “insurance policy.” Dr. Richard Benninger, Assistant Professor in Bioengineering and Pediatrics at University of Colorado Hospital, concurs with the Hess’ reasoning, stating that the ongoing research regarding baby teeth stem cells is “very exciting and promising,” and may yield tangible results within Alex’s lifetime.