What to do with those baby teeth?
Some people turn them into jewelry. Others toss them into a memory box for their kids. Others let the tooth fairy handle it.
Wellesley’s Howard Greenman, though, is heading up a company that wants to bank stem cells from baby teeth (not to be confused with the touchy subject of embryonic stem cells) so that they may one day be used for possible dental and other medical applications. These so-called master cells renew themselves and can change into different cell types.
Findings from the National Institutes of Health in the early 2000s that baby teeth — or deciduous teeth as we science guys call them — were a good source of stem cells is really what got the action going in this field. Advances are coming quickly on the dental stem cell front, as seen in this new article from Boston University, where researchers are using stem cells to regenerate tooth components such as dental pulp and dentin in hopes of eliminating invasive dental procedures like root canals down the road. Those in this field hope that dental stem cells, including those from wisdom and other teeth, can also be used in the future to generate everything from brain tissue to cartilage.
The Store-A-Tooth service offered by biotech industry veteran Greenman’s Provia Laboratories in Lexington isn’t the only such offering on the market (others include StemSave and BioEden, and separately, other companies focus on storing stem cells from cord blood). But with dental stem cell research advancing, Greenman — who attended Babson as an undergrad and Wharton for his MBA — hopes his timing will be right.
The service is offered via dentists, and Store-A-Tooth is focused on teeth that are extracted at the dentist’s office, as that gives stem cells the best chance of surviving/thriving. Dental stem cell banks argue that this is the way to go if you want to store stem cells in that it’s simpler and less expensive than other methods.
Still, it’s not for the cash-strapped, and whether many people will be willing to fork over anywhere from around $600 to $650 per sample and another $100 or so per annual storage fee remains to be seen. But who knows, maybe insurance companies will start ponying up part of the price if dental stem cell banking catches on.
UPDATE: For more on Provia and Store-A-Tooth, the Townsman separately posted an interview Tuesday with Greenman and Wellesley’s Jeffrey Gruneich, Provia’s VP of business development. A resident familiar with the company recently pitched local media about the business.