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Could baby teeth stem cells save your child?

October 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Move over Tooth Fairy! Some parents are now saving their kids' baby teeth in hopes that a tooth, or rather the stem cells in it, could one day be used to help with a medical issue.

Store-A-Tooth banks adult stem cells found in children's baby teeth and in wisdom teeth. Right now, there are no medical applications using dental stem cells, but they have been used in human studies. The hope is one day they'll treat spinal cord injuries, MS and a variety of other conditions.

"You're doing your child and their future a disservice if you don't at least look into it," said Dr. Stephen Hamelburg, a dentist in Mass.

Claudia Vigorito's daughter was born with a heart defect. She stored her daughter's baby teeth right after she lost them.

"She's going to lose her teeth anyway, so why not put them to good use?" said Vigorito.

Once a dentist extracts the teeth, they're packed in a kit and sent to a lab, where the stem cells are harvested and stored for possible future use. But is there really science behind this?

"So right now there aren't any proven uses for the cells you can get out of the teeth, they're very interesting, again a little like cord blood, but we don't have a clinical use for those cells as of today," said Dr. Clive Svendsen, Ph.D.

Dr. Svendsen runs the Regenerative Medicine Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The research is preliminary, and experts say it's up to parents to decide if it's worth it.

"If you have the money and you can afford to store them, these cells may very well be interesting and have multiple uses later on in life," said Dr. Svendsen.

The initial cost to bank stem cells from one tooth with Store-A-Tooth is $769, which includes the first year of storage. After that, it costs about $10 a month to keep each tooth cryogenically frozen.

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