Researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas have developed a new method for extracting the pulp from the roots of teeth. This new method allows for the harvest of four times as many stem cells as compared to other pulp extraction methods.
Stem cells may be the key to developing new, more effective therapies and treatments for many chronic and terminal diseases. Stem cells can be extracted from nearly any living tissue, but gathering enough to work with and keeping them alive until they are needed often poses a serious challenge for researchers. One promising source of stem cells is the pulp of extracted teeth. When healthy teeth are extracted, such as during wisdom tooth surgery or orthodontic treatment, they contain viable pulp from which stem cells can be extracted.
The pulp of a tooth is home to two important types of stem cells. The first, called pluripotent stem cells, can become any cell within the organism from which they are extracted. The second kind, called multipotent stem cells, can become a specific type of cell within the organism from which they are extracted. These stem cells can, theoretically, be stored and used later in the life of the person to whom the tooth belongs if this person develops an illness that stem cells can cure. Currently, however, we are unsure how long-term storage might affect these cells.
As the researchers began their attempts to extract stem cells from the pulp of teeth, they found that their methods for reaching the pulp resulted in the destruction of many viable stem cells. So, they invented a device called the “Tooth Cracker 5000.” This device allows for the clean split of a tooth and, consequently, for the preservation of most of the pulp’s stem cells.
The researcher’s new-found ability to harvest comparatively large quantities of stem cells from the pulp of teeth offers a hopeful step toward future medical innovations and the development of life-saving cures.