Researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, have developed a new way to extract stem cells from wisdom teeth that not only takes out a higher number of stem cells, but also keeps them viable for future use.
A Source of Stem Cells
Once considered an alternative treatment, stem cell therapy is making its way into mainstream medicine to treat a wide range of health conditions.
The UNLV project involved researchers from both the School of Dental Medicine’s orthodontic department and biomedical science department.
The researchers targeted the wisdom teeth as their source for stem cells because wisdom teeth extraction is a standard procedure in the U.S., with around 5 million extractions performed each year.
Another reason for choosing wisdom teeth was the fact that wisdom teeth contained root pulp full of stem cells.
Stem cells can repair tissue damaged by disease, injury or aging.
Root pulp has two types of stem cells: pluripotent stem cells and multipotent stem cells.
Pluripotent stem cells have the unique ability to become any cell in the body. Multipotent stem cells can develop into specific cell types.
Not only do stem cells possess the ability to develop into different types of cells, but they also can replicate without limit.
The researchers recognized that although they knew where to find stem cells in the tooth and what kind of stem cells were located in the root pulp, getting the stem cells out of the teeth was a problem.
Conventional methods for removing root pulp include drilling into the tooth or breaking the tooth into pieces. These methods have their drawbacks, as most of them cause collateral damage to the stem cells.
The UNLV scientists set out to solve the problem and extract stem cells more readily.
Their first attempt was a method that cracked the tooth in half, but this technique caused the tooth to shatter and impacted the number of stem cells that survived the process.
Going back to the drawing board, the dental researchers connected with the university’s UNLV Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering to discuss the mechanics behind fractures.
The collaboration paid off. The group developed an instrument jokingly named the “Tooth Cracker 5000,” designed to hold a tooth in position to score it and then crack it into two halves.
The group tested the device on 25 teeth and were able to remove pulp from each tooth successfully.
The device allowed them to extract 80 percent of the stem cells in the pulp of the teeth, an amount four times greater than other collection methods.
Stem Cell Potential
“The ability to collect more dental stem cells is exciting because it increases the ability to apply those dental stem cells for future medical treatments,” said Dr. Stefania Caracioni, D.D.S., L.V.I.F.
Caracioni is a Topeka, Kansas, dentist.
“Taking out stem cells from discarded wisdom teeth could mean potential new treatments for conditions like diabetes, lung conditions and autoimmune diseases,” Caracioni said.
Stem cell therapy is also helping people who no longer respond to or cannot tolerate conventional treatments.
The stem cells found in dental pulp can also develop into nerve tissue, which may prove beneficial in treating conditions like neuropathy and dementia.
Currently, there is no standard protocol for the long-term storage of stem cells collected from teeth. People who are looking to store their dental stem cells for the future can send their extracted wisdom teeth to dental stem cell banks, which freeze intact wisdom teeth for future use.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). “Dentists get cracking on the stem cell front.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 October 2017.