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Worthless Wisdom Tooth is goldmine of stem cells

wisdom tooth

Impacted Wisdom Tooth

The good for nothing painful wisdom tooth may finally have some worth.

Scientists say the wisdom tooth, which is usually extracted, is a rich source of stem cells. The soft pulp inside the tooth contains a population of cells known as mesenchymal stromal cells – which are similar to cellsfound in bone marrow, a common stem cell source. However, unlike bone marrow, tooth pulp is more easily obtained, especially in wisdom teeththat most individuals get removed anyway.

International studies conducted with stem cells extracted from a wisdom tooth have shown tremendous promise in regenerating damaged bones, cornea and cardiac muscles.

“You don’t necessarily have to remove the wisdom tooth to extract the stem cells from the pulp. Usually, the pulp has a million cells, 20% of which will be stem cells. It can be extracted from a person aged between 12 and 30. Dental stem cells are very easy to extract. They have high quantity of stem cells in them and can be applied for many regenerative applications.

Recently, in a new study in the “Journal of Biological Chemistry” scientists from Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology confirmed that the third molars – commonly known as wisdom teeth – are a valuable reservoir of stem cells. “Thus everyone might be carrying around his or her own personal stem-cell repository should he or she ever needed some,” the scientists said.

The researchers,led by Hajime Ohgushi, collected tooth samples from three donors and managed to generate a series ofstem cell lines which displayed varying degrees of “robustness but in some cases proliferated quite well, up to 100 times more efficiently than typical skin-cell-derived stem cells. The molar-derived cells also could differentiate into many other cell types including beating cardiomyocytes.”

Wisdom tooth extraction is a commonly done surgical procedure. If done in a sterilised setting, the cells can be frozen thecells in liquid nitrogen for years until needed by which time its new applications will be found by researchers working on dental stem cells. Excellent amounts of stem cells can also be harvested from children’s milk teeth.

 What are stem cells?

Stem cells are master cells of the body that are not yet specialised and differentiated for a particular function/organ or tissue application. These stem cells have been found in tissues such as brain, bone marrow, blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscles, skin and liver. They remain in a quiescent or non-dividing state for years until activated by disease or tissue injury.

The research surrounding stem cells is very exciting and it may be possible in the near future to create organs or part of organs such as heart, liver, kidney, bone and even teeth. These would be fully acceptable by the body as they are grown from the patients own cells. There would be no need to put the  patient on heavy immuno-suppressive medicines which currently need to be given to organ transplant patients.

Dr Madan’s final comment: One day, we will be able to develop a new tooth from stem cells.

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