CHICAGO (CBS) — We’ve all heard stem cells hold great promise for curing disease. Now an easy new way to get stem cells has some people taking their children to the dentist to get their baby teeth pulled.
Is it a scientific breakthrough or the stuff of tooth fairies? CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports.READ MORE: Jussie Smollett Returns To Witness Stand Tuesday
The newest way to extract stem cells is truly jaw-dropping. It requires having your child’s baby teeth pulled by a dentist, who then specially packages them and sends the teeth out to be cryogenically stored.
“It’s a very, very easy way to collect stem cells,” says west suburban dentist Ron Schefdore.
Brandi Bugel is storing the dental stem cells of her 9-year-old son, Kullin, with the hope they could one day be used to treat his Type 1 Diabetes.
She signed up for a service called Store-A-Tooth.
“As a parent of a child with diabetes, you always want to grab on to any kind of hope you possibly can,” Bugel says.
Her son’s dentist, who’s also her employer, is one of the first dentists in Illinois to offer the service.
“The research indicates right now that it’s good for spinal cord injuries, repairing a heart muscle, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s disease, a slew of other diseases just from dental stem cells,” Schefdore says.
Peter Verlander, the chief scientific officer of Store-A-Tooth, says research is very preliminary but parents should be given the option.
“They see the promise,” he says. “And they would like to have all the tools available for their kids if and when they need them.”READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Wind Chills Near Zero
There are skeptics.
“It’s always a shame to hear ‘potentially, potentially, potentially’ without any real scientific basis,” says Dr. John Kessler, the director of the Stem Cell Institute at Northwestern University.
He says possible applications for dental stem cells are limited. And says how they’re stored and their quantity and viability present other problems.
“To think that this stem cell offers that potential is not just a leap of faith, it’s a leap over the cliff,” Kessler says.
Schefdore concedes it’s possible parents might get false hopes.
But he adds, “There’s no guarantee in anything in life.”
Still, parents like Bugel can’t help wondering: What if? And they aren’t deterred by the cost — $650 to sign up, plus $10 a month for storage fees.
Did anyone try to discourage her?
“No, and even if they had, I probably wouldn’t have listened,” she says. “I think it’s a good thing, and it’s out there, so why not use it, you know?”
You can’t store baby teeth that have already fallen out. They must be pulled to ensure blood flow.MORE NEWS: Jussie Smollett Takes The Witness Stand, Describes Alleged Attack As Real And Like 'Something Out Of Looney Tunes Adventures'
For adults, wisdom teeth can be stored as well. But no dental stem cells are currently being used anywhere but in the lab