Wisdom teeth: stashing your own stem cells

Japanese researchers create stem cell lines from the pulp of wisdom teeth. Could personalized medical applications follow? Just in case, two companies launch the first ever dental stem cell bank in Mumbai.
Written by Melissa Mahony, Contributor

My dentist keeps warning me I need to get my one remaining wisdom tooth out. But according to Japanese scientists, my third molar (currently impacted and allegedly, about to wreak havoc on my second molar) may come in handy someday, as a source of stem cells.

Appearing in this week's Journal of Biological Chemistry, their research generated stem cells lines from the soft pulp within the wisdom teeth of three donors. The tooth's mesenchymal stromal cells are similar to those found within bone marrow but more easily extracted.

The cell lines created from these cells are induced pluripotent somatic cells, or IPS cells, which can be reprogrammed to behave like the more controversial embryonic stem cells. (A New York Times article last month discusses the uncertainty of just how alike IPS and embryonic stem cells might be.)

Although the dentally-derived cell lines varied in quality, the researchers, from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, said some their stem cells performed 100 times more efficiently than other IPS cells, taken from skin cells. The cells, they say, were able to differentiate into many other cell types, including cardiomyocytes (heart cells).

On the coattails of the study, Indian company Gencoval Strategic Services andInstitut Clinident Biopharma, a teeth bank in Europe, announced they'll be opening the first bank for dental stem cells, named Stemade Biotech, in Mumbai, India.

The Times of India quotes Shailesh Gadre of Stemade Biotech:

We have also harvested excellent amounts of stem cells from children's milk tooth. Wisdom tooth extraction is a common medical procedure in developed nations. If done in a sterilised setting, we can freeze the cells in liquid nitrogen for years until needed by which time its new applications will be found by researchers working on dental stem cells.

What the future holds for personalized IPS cell applications is unknown, but I'll take this news as a welcomed excuse to ignore my dentist a while longer.

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