Researchers in Japan have successfully made stem cells from wisdom teeth, creating an alternative source of pluripotent cells for research and treatment of diseases.
It will be welcomed by many who argue against the ethics of using embryonic stem cells.
Scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology said they used wisdom teeth that had been frozen for three years after being removed from a 10-year-old girl.
The breakthrough is significant because it avoids the ethical problem of using embryonic stem cells – wisdom teeth are usually thrown away – and it is easy to stock wisdom teeth.
Dentistry.co.uk recently reported on the use of baby teeth as a source of stem cells by UK company BioEden.
Stem cells are one of the buzzwords in modern science, and thanks to some of the methods used to harvest them, one of the biggest sources of controversy.
As to harvesting stem cells from wisdom teeth, scientists say there would be no problem with supply, since extraction of wisdom teeth is a common dental procedure.
Having such a plentiful source of donors means scientists could produce stem cells with a range of genetic codes, increasing the chance that a patient’s immune system will not reject the transplanted tissue or organ.
Also, people who have their wisdom teeth out could arrange for them to be stored for future use as a source of stem cells already tailored to their own genetic code.
Last year, Japan announced it would be spending 10 billion yen, over 90 million US dollars, on stem cell research in the next 5 years. Japan is second only to the United States in the amount of money it spends on scientific research.