Stem Cells from Teeth – The Next Big Thing?
Trust me when I say that after you finish reading this article, you will have a whole new perspective on your teeth – especially those that have fallen out! Before you say I am crazy, think about this: Let’s take a moment to envision a world where victims of spinal cord injuries can walk again, where there are organs readily available for those in need of a transplant, and where diabetes is no longer treated with insulin shots – but rather cured by implanting insulin producing pancreatic islets grown from the individual’s own stem cells. This is the potential of stem cell based regenerative medicine as envisioned by both the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and the HHS (Department of Health and Human Services). Both the NIH and HHS have committed significant resources to the field of regenerative medicine, and both predict it will revolutionize medicine as we know it today; improving quality of life while reducing health care costs.
As quoted from the HHS, “This revolutionary technology has the potential to develop therapies for previously untreatable diseases and conditions. Examples of diseases regenerative medicine can cure include: diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, osteoporosis and spinal cord injuries. Virtually any disease that results from malfunctioning, damaged, or failing tissues may be potentially cured through regenerative medicine therapies.” This amazing technology has so much potential that the US military is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in order to develop regenerative stem cell therapies to treat injured soldiers returning from battle.
Now let’s take a step back and answer a more basic question – What exactly is regenerative medicine? According to the NIH, “Regenerative Medicine is the process of creating living, functional tissues to repair or replace organ function lost due to age, disease, damage or congenital defects. This field holds the promise of regenerating damaged tissues and organs in the body by stimulating previously irreparable organs to heal themselves.” In other words, regenerative medicine utilizes stem cells which are the body’s own natural repair and maintenance mechanisms to address disease and trauma.
Did you know that stem cells are the only cells in our body that can regenerate? Certain types of stem cells have the ability to ‘differentiate.’ This allows stem cells to turn into a broad range of specialized tissue types. This means that stem cells can regenerate organs, tissues, bones and much more. As a result, we are witnessing stem cell therapies being developed to treat disease and trauma such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, MS, arthritis, heart disease, spinal cord injuries, joint replacement, genetic diseases and many more!
Regenerative medicine is not science fiction or decades away – it is happening today. We are witnessing organ transplants with organs built entirely from a person’s own stem cells. Additionally, heart tissue, bone, insulin producing pancreatic beta cells and other tissues are being grown from stem cells. With the continued success of such procedures, personalized stem cell applications will soon become the new standard of treatment.