Stem cells are 'master cells' in the body that have the potential to differentiate into several types of cell, e.g. blood cells, nerve cells and others. In addition to differentiation, they also serve as an internal repair system of the body. They are first seen during early embryonic development and are also distributed in different parts of the body in an adult.
Researchers have discovered several sources of stem cells:
Embryonic stem cells: These stem cells are derived from embryos that are four to five days old.
Adult Stem Cells : Adult stem cells are found in developed organs and tissues of the body. Despite the name, they are found in children as well as adults. These stem cells are found in small numbers in most adult tissues, such as the bone marrow, adipose tissue, tooth, etc.
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells : These are regular adult cells which are not stem cells but are induced (re-programmed) to exhibit pluripotent properties (ability to differentiate into cells belonging to any of the three germ layers), to act like embryonic stem cells.
Dental stem cells or Dental Pulp Stem Cells (DPSCs) are adult stem cells found in both, baby teeth (milk teeth of children in the age group of 5 -12 years) and permanent teeth of young adults. Scientists have identified the Mesenchymal type of stem cell inside dental pulp. This particular type of stem cell has the future potential to differentiate into a variety of other cell types including:
- Cardio Myocytes to repair damaged cardiac tissue following a heart attack.
- Neuronal to generate nerve and brain tissue.
- Myocytes to repair muscle.
- Osteocytesto generate bone.
- Chondrocytes to generate cartilage.
- Adipocytes to generate fat.
- Odontoblasts to generate the dentin.
Researchers grow stem cells in the lab. These stem cells are then treated and divided, either in vitro or in vivo into specific types of cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells or nerve cells. The stem cell or specialized cells could then be implanted into a person.For instance, if a person suffers a heart attack, the cells could be injected into the heart muscle. Healthy, transplanted heart cells could then contribute to restoring the impaired heart muscle.
Currently, extensive research is being conducted by leading scientists all over the world, who are exploring the possibility of treating a wide array of ailments, ranging from cancer to heart diseases to regeneration of dental and craniofacial cells. Given the ability of these cells to produce and secrete neurotrophic factors, these stem cells may also be beneficial for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and the repair of motor neurons following injury.
Currently, dental pulp stem cells are being studied for their future potential to:
- Generate a new bone structure for fractures, improper bone formations, weak bones, etc.
- Generate cartilages for conditions like arthritis, etc.
- Repair damaged heart cells after a heart attack.
- Generate cells present in the nerves and the brain.
- Repair and restore muscles if a patient has suffered from an ailment which has led to muscle weakness.
- Regenerate liver cells.
- Reconstruct corneal epithelium.
There are many reasons.
- Some treat the service as a sort of biological insurance.
- Others have chosen to store stem cells because their family has specific history or risk factors that prompt them to consider all potential options available.
- Some see the field of stem cells growing rapidly and do not want to miss the opportunity to keep the cells now.
- Most agree, that there are limited opportunities to safely, inexpensively, and painlessly acquire and save these valuable stem cells in case they are ever needed.
There are two types of stem cell transplants: Allogeneic and Autologous.
- Allogeneic stem cell transplant uses stem cells donated to the patient from another person who is a genetically matched stem cell donor.
- Autologous stem cell transplant uses the patient's own stem cells. In autologous stem cell transplant, there is no risk of immune reaction and tissue rejection of the cells, no immunosuppressive therapy needed and significantly reduced risk of communicable diseases.
Currently, we bank the dental pulp, rich in adult stem cells, for autologous use only. However, they may potentially be used to treat conditions in first or second degree blood relatives (siblings, parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts) in addition to the donor, considering their immunomodulatory properties.
Yes, the organs or tissues which are derived from your stem cells will be normal and similar to your other tissues, because they have grown from your cells only
On the surface, stem cells might seem irrelevant to you because you do not have any degenerative disorders. However, stem cells offer the hope of a cure for many types of disease, such as insulin-dependant diabetes, MI, MS, Parkinson's disease and tissue damage such as those suffered by spinal trauma victims. Stem cells could be important to any disease due to their unique property of being forever 'young' and being responsive to change. Should you develop any degenerative disease in the future, stem cells can be potentially useful to treat these diseases.
Dental stem cell banking complements Umbilical cord stem cell banking. Cord blood stem cells are mainly used today to treat blood diseases; however, dental stem cells will be used to treat hard and soft tissue diseases and injuries, such as healing connective tissue, repairing dental tissues, neuronal tissue and bone.
DPSCs score high not only in terms of therapeutic advantages but also in terms of practical aspects of banking
Dental pulp stem cell banking scores high not only in terms of therapeutic advantages, but also in terms of practical aspects of banking. Dental pulp stem cell banking has the following advantages which are one of its kind:
- The duration for banking healthy dental stem cells is long, since it can be done for children in the age group of 5-12 years and also for adults under the age of 30.
- The collection of stem cells from the pulp of the tooth is easy, painless, quick, highly efficient, with no ethical complications, as it involves a simple process of extraction of the tooth.
- Dental stem cells are non-controversial adult stem cells, unlike embryonic stem cells, the source of which involves ethical issues.
- Dental stem cells have demonstrated interactivity with biomaterials, making them ideal for tissue reconstruction.
- Dental stem cells are expandable and they can be multiplied under controlled conditions.
The earlier, the better, since the quantity and quality of stem cells starts to decrease with age. However, for children, it would be ideal if they are between5-12 years of age. Adults who are under 30 years' of age can bank their permanent teeth if they are being extracted for orthodontic purposes.
The baby teeth (incisors and canines) are the right teeth to collect as they are rich in adult stem cells. Except in cases of accident or trauma, the teeth are often extracted to allow proper positioning. Premolars are generally extracted for orthodontic treatment, which can also be a good source of adult stem cells. The eruption of wisdom teeth is generally between 17 and 21 years which in turn are also good sources of stem cells.