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Dental Stem Cells Could Aid Future Medical Discoveries

storage container

If you’ve ever been worried about difficulties resulting from a stroke or if you struggle with diabetes, a new futuristic investment could improve your health. That futuristic investment? Your teeth.

"In the lab we've been able to grow [dental stem cells] into bone, cartilage, nerve, cardiac tissue, skin," says Michael Byers, the President and CEO of Tooth Bank.

Tooth Bank is a Brownsburg-based company that harvests and stores teeth from your dentist.

Byers says the stem cells in teeth could aid modern medicine.

"I think in the modern world, today, a lot of your medicine from big pharm is pill-based form," he says.

In the future? Researchers believe stem cells harvest from teeth will be regrown into whatever your body needs.

"You’ll develop the cell life for treatment of this particular disease and things can be more specialized to the actual individual over something that’s sold more on the masses," Byers says.

Scientists have grown the whole right side of someone’s jaw and an esophagus. One man in England used his dental stem cells to help manage his diabetes.

"He's only one person so there’s no concrete evidence," Byers says. "But for this one particular patient his transplant of his own dental derived stem cells has extremely reduced his need for insulin."

Right now, these trials exist in labs, but the patients banking their teeth hope for practical applications of this technology within their lifetime. Matt Bojrab, an oral surgeon in Fishers, says he’s confident in stem cell research.

"I talk to all the patients about it especially the kids that come in for their wisdom teeth extractions," says Bojrab.

He says he harvests around two or three clients’ teeth each week. Currently a little over 2,500 clients have banked their teeth with Tooth Bank, which are stored in large, stainless steel containers filled with liquid nitrogen. Byers says the best property of your dental stem cells is that they are regenerative, meaning once you store a tooth you're set. Plus, you'll be implanting your own cells so there's a higher chance of quick recovery.

"Instead of using say like a filler like cadaver bone that they may use today, you’d have your own cells, no chance of rejection and healthy bone regrown," Byers says.

Tooth Bank has two locations – one in Indianapolis the other in Salt Lake City. Byers says this is because the two locations are considered climate safe.

"California deals with earthquakes and other things, the East Coast can have hurricanes," he says. "But, you know, we do have the chance of tornadoes but we’re also in a solid, concrete building."

Banking your dental stem cells will cost you $590 for the first year, and $115 for every year after that. Byers says it's cheaper than storing stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

"This is $590 compared to, you know, umbilical cord blood banking, which runs about $2,000," Byers says.

And clients have sent teeth from across the nation to be stored.

"The furthest is probably we had one client, actually two now, from the same village in Northern Alaska," Byers says.

Their teeth had to be driven from their village to a UPS location in Canada and then flown to the United States for storage.

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