Harvesting of stem cells and preserving them as insurance against a possible future need by the cell donor is now widely practiced. Until recently, however, there were just three sources from which stem cells could be obtained – bone marrow, adipose or fat cells and blood. While the first two sources involve highly invasive procedures, the latter requires a complex concentration and extraction process to isolate the stem cells.
Recently, research conducted by America’s National Institute of Health has revealed the presence of stem cells in the pulp of teeth form infants, children and adults. The discovery has led to a brand new role for the dentist and new hope for many dental patients who may, one day, require some form of stem cell therapy. It has also led to the establishment of a world-wide project known as StemSave.
The project is designed to recruit the support of dentists willing to participate in the collection of healthy dental pulp from patients that wish to bank their stem cell material for possible future use. The principle is similar to that in which routine surgical patients are often prompted to donate blood for personal use, a week or two before their procedures.
Gauteng Group among the Early Adopters
The Dr. Ivan Marx group of practices was recently the first to introduce South Africans to the revolutionary CEREC technology with which permanent dental crowns and other restorations can be fashioned in minutes at the chairside. Keen to maintain its innovative stance, the group has also been quick to support the equally revolutionary StemSave project.
A spokesman for the group spoke of its overriding goal to provide the most complete and effective service to its patients, adding that only by embracing new technologies and constantly developing the skills of its practitioners was this possible.
When asked what would be required of a patient that wishes to benefit from the StemSave technology, he explained that the process was nothing more than an adjunct to the routine extraction of healthy teeth that everyone, at some stage, is likely to require. This means that, for instance, a child who may need a deciduous (baby) tooth removed or an adult undergoing extraction of wisdom teeth will be providing healthy dental pulp containing stem cells as an automatic by-product of the process and without the need for a specific harvesting procedure.
Following the extraction, the dental practitioner must first inspect the tooth in order to confirm that it actually contains healthy dental pulp. Next, it is transferred to one of the special StemSave vials that will later be placed in an insulated box for shipping to StemSave where the specimen will be tested for viability and, if found to be viable, subjected to cryopreservation.
Online Registration and Shipping to Ensure Security
An assistant at a Dr. Ivan Marx clinic explained that, just as in a blood transfusion service, record keeping was crucial to the StemSave project. Each participating practitioner has a secure online StemSave account where each patient’s details are registered. The registration generates a unique ID number and a UPS shipping label which is then printed and attached to the patient’s insulated box.
Automatically alerted to the new shipment, UPS then collects the sample and each step of the delivery process can then be monitored online both by the practitioner and the patient.
Once laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of viable adult stem cells the dentist and patient are both informed and, at any time thereafter, the stored material will be released and shipped to the desired destination and with equal regard for security at the request of the patient.
The implications of the StemSave project with regard to the long-term health and, perhaps, the lives of patients, throughout the world, are profound. Your child’s lost tooth may have a value well beyond the few Rands traditionally attributed to the tooth fairy and progressive practitioners such as those of the Dr. Ivan Marx group are making that value accessible to all.
For more information visit http://www.yourdentist.co.za/
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