What are stem cells?
Stem cells are generically defined as precursor or progenitor cells that have the potential to differentiate into a wide variety of tissue. Although often categorized as either embryonic or adult, they represent a continuum of cell types that eventually transform into our end-product tissue — meaning stem cells can regenerate themselves into any needed type of cell to serve the body. Umbilical blood, dental pulp (from baby teeth, molars, and most extracted teeth), and fat tissue (adipose) are rich sources of stem cells; obtaining stem cells from these sources eliminates the ethical issues seen in politics and religion with embryonic stem cells.
From Medical Waste to a Life-Saving Promise
In the past, extracted teeth and adipose tissue have been viewed as medical waste and discarded at a high cost, resulting in the loss of these potential life-saving resources. Now these cells can be saved through a secure collection, processing, and banking solution, to take full advantage of the rapidly developing treatments, cures, and therapies as the future of regenerative medicine and life-enhancing alternatives progresses.
A new source of adult stem cells that are
- Plentiful and painless to collect – found in baby or adult teeth (wisdom).
- Affordable – less than the cost of a dental crown.
- Non-controversial – adult stem cells, not embryonic.
- Precious – public banks do not hold the promise of our own cells.
- Autologous – our perfect match with no risk of immunologic rejection.
Why Stem Cells Are So Promising
Cells make up all of the body’s tissue and organs, such as the heart, liver, brain, and skin; they serve both a structural and a functional role while performing a wide range of actions to enable the body to work in a normal and healthy state. Most cells in the body have already become what they are programmed to be and will not change (i.e., a heart cell will always be a heart cell, a liver cell will always be a liver cell).
Stem cells, however, can divide and change into particular types of cells, which under controlled conditions, can grow into organs, bone, and tissue. Developed stem cells can help repair the immune system or create replacement cells for those that are lost or damaged by injury or disease. The stem cells found in dental pulp and adipose tissue are a type of non-controversial adult stem cell known as mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). Mesenchymal stem cells can differentiate or ‘mature into’ whatever cell type is needed in the body (tissue cells).
The limitless potential of stem cells from dental and adipose (fat) tissue in use today includes
- Bone Regeneration. MSCs can differentiate into a determined cell lineage to repair damaged bone and tissue.
- Muscle Regrowth. Release of growth factors that attract and recruit other stem cells to the site of the injury and promote their differentiation.
- Ligaments and Cartilage Repair. Stem cells delivered into damaged tissues can release growth factors to stimulate the healing of the damaged tissue.
- Wound and Burn Healing. Release of growth factors that will cause new blood vessel growth to the site of injury and may provide antioxidants to a wound area that did not get adequate blood flow.
This multipotent potential makes these cells an excellent candidate for ‘regenerative medicine’ and tissue engineering applications. With all the emerging applications using mesenchymal stem cells, it is important to understand that these miraculous cells may indeed be the future of medicine for mainstream cellular therapy applications, including the potential treatment of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes Type I and II, heart attack, stroke, MS, ALS, nerve and spinal injury, cirrhosis of the liver, and others.
Types of Stem Cells
Stem cells from teeth and fatty tissue (mesenchymal) are different from those found in bone marrow and cord blood (hematopoietic). Marrow and blood stem cells can be used to treat blood disorders such as leukemia. Stem cells from tissue are different and can be used to grow a range of tissues including bone, nerve, fat, skin, muscle, and cartilage, and maybe even entire organs. Both types appear to be one of the body’s chief tools for self-repair.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC). Adipose (fat) tissue is a dynamic, multi-functional tissue that is found throughout the human body. The stem cells originated from adipose (and teeth) are mesenchymal stem cells, having the ability to differentiate into bone, muscle, fat, nerve, and cartilage. MSCs are easy to obtain and often considered a waste product in several cosmetic and surgical procedures. The medical community now realizes the value of banking these cells to take full advantage of the treatments, cures, and therapies as the future of medicine.
These autologous (cells from the same person for whom they are to be used) adult stem cells are capable of performing three important functions with unique abilities:
- Potential to transform into other cell types
- Can travel through the body to the damaged tissue
- Have the ability to attach to the damaged tissue
Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSC). HSCs are used to treat blood disorders such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia. Emerging stem cell therapies are dependent on the presence of a rich and abundant source of stem cells. While it is not common knowledge, bone marrow transplants are essentially a stem cell transplant. Bone marrow and cord blood are a rich source of HSCs, and in December 2012, we had our one millionth transplant of hematopoietic stem cells.
HSCs are defined by their ability to replenish all blood cell types and their ability to self-renew. It is known that a small number of HSCs can expand to generate a very large number of daughter HSCs. This phenomenon is used in bone marrow transplants when a small number of HSCs reconstitute the blood system. There is much interest in the molecular requirement for HSC self-renewal, as understanding the ability of HSCs to replenish themselves will eventually allow for in-vitro renewal and propagation.
What is stem cell banking?
Human stem cell banks collect, test, preserve, store, and deliver stem cells from individual donors for future use in cures, therapies, or treatments of diseases and age-reversing developments. As the wide-ranging benefits become fully understood, the applications for stem cell treatment and uses are growing exponentially.
Fundamentally, stem cells are cells (the basic functional unit of life) that have the potential to differentiate themselves into a variety of tissue. The private banking industry is dedicated to preserving our individual stem cells and excludes public stem cell banks and companies that primarily research, develop, and manufacture therapeutic products using stem cells of unknown origin.
Often Referred to as ‘Biological Insurance’
By banking these cells now, people may have more options for their future health care. It’s like an insurance policy — added protection in case we or our family ever needs whatever medical breakthroughs are around the corner.
Stem cells from teeth and adipose (fat) tissue can now be stored for decades, allowing each of us to prepare now for whatever the future may bring. We have the assurance that the safety, non-rejection, and life-saving potential of our stem cells are properly secured if they are ever needed.
The best time for collecting and banking our stem cells is when we are at our healthiest, usually in our 20s to 40s, before we encounter unexpected or hereditary diseases. Invest in your future . . .