New Delhi: Is your
child about to lose her milk tooth? Instead of throwing it away,
you can now opt to use it to harvest stem cells in a dental stem
cell bank for future use in the face of serious ailments. Now
that's a tooth fairy story coming to life.
Still relatively new in India, dental stem cell banking is fast
gaining popularity as a more viable option over umbilical cord
Stem cell therapy involves a kind of intervention strategy in
which healthy, new cells are introduced into a damaged tissue to
treat a disease or an injury.
"The umbilical cord is a good source for blood-related cells, or
hemaotopoietic cells, which can be used for blood-related
diseases, like leukaemia (blood cancer). Having said that,
blood-related disorders constitute only four percent of all
diseases," Shailesh Gadre, founder and managing director of the
company Stemade Biotech, told IANS.
"For the rest of the 96 percent tissue-related diseases, the tooth
is a good source of mesenchymal (tissue-related) stem cells. These
cells have potential application in all other tissues of the body,
for instance, the brain, in case of diseases like Alzheimer's and
Parkinson's; the eye (corneal reconstruction), liver (cirrhosis),
pancreas (diabetes), bone (fractures, reconstruction), skin and
the like," he said.
Mesenchymal cells can also be used to regenerate cardiac cells.
Dental stem cell banking also has an advantage when it comes to
the process of obtaining stem cells.
"Obtaining stem cells from the tooth is a non-invasive procedure
that requires no surgery, with little or no pain. A child, in the
age group of 5-12, is any way going to lose his milk tooth. So
when it's a little shaky, it can be collected with hardly any
discomfort," Savita Menon, a pedodontist, said.
"Moreover, in a number of cases, when an adolescent needs braces,
the doctor recommends that his pre-molars be removed. These can
also be used as a source for stem cells. And over and above that,
an adult's wisdom tooth can also be used for the same purpose,"
Therefore, unlike umbilical cord blood banking which gives one
just one chance - during birth - the window of opportunity in
dental stem cell banking is much bigger.
"Of course, age is still a big factor," added Menon. "A child's
milk tooth has more potency than a wisdom tooth. The ability of a
young one's cells to multiply is twice as higher as anyone else."
Pankaj Kala is one of those who opted for dental stem cell banking
for his child.
"I lost my mother to cardiac arrest when she was just 45. She was
also a diabetic. After that I decided that I will do everything
possible to protect my family from harm. I missed the opportunity
of umbilical cord blood banking in the case of my daughter when
she was born; so when she was six, we went for dental stem cell
banking," Kala, who is in the jewellery business in Mumbai, told
"It's been two years now and I have decided to go for the
procedure for the second child too. Even my wife will go for stem
cell banking using her wisdom tooth. In my case, however, it will
be difficult since I had gone for root canal treatment in my
wisdom tooth and therefore it's not healthy," he added.
Anish Jain, another parent who has got his son's milk tooth
extracted for stem cell banking, said: "I know stem cell therapy
is a relatively new field, but I didn't want to have regrets later
about not doing anything that could help my child if he suffers
from any ailment."
As of now, dental stem cell banking in India is offered by a
select few companies, like Stemade and Store Your Cells. The
procedure and then preservation of the stem cells can cost around
Rs.100,000 for a period of 21 years.
"Around 20 percent of those who have come to us for dental stem
cell banking are doctors," said Gadre, who added they collect
60-70 samples every month.
There are however sceptics.
"Research is still on in stem cell therapy; so to tell people that
harvesting your stem cells can save you from any serious disease
is still a premature statement," said a doctor.
(Azera Parveen Rahman can be contacted at email@example.com)