Thinking about my child’s future – with BioEden
My last post was quite a light-hearted look at some of the things that make me realise that I am a parent. It did get me thinking, alongside the regular Timehop reminders, of when I was pregnant with Freyja. The positive pregnancy test. The scans. Feeling those first movements. We were really conscious of just how precious the life I was carrying inside me was. I took my vitamin supplements religiously. Rich wouldn’t let me carry bags of shopping, or even push a heavy trolley at the supermarket. I attended every midwife appointment, always took a careful look at my notes following this and had my midwife’s number stored in my phone. With everything I did, the health of that growing baby inside me was on my mind.
Although a healthy pregnancy is important, it was only after the birth of Freyja that those nine months suddenly felt fairly insignificant. She was no longer protected inside me, where I could have some degree of control. Instead, she was now exposed to the outside world. And it was my job (and Rich’s of course!) to keep her safe. To provide all that she would need to grow, develop and thrive. Instead of setting reminders on my phone to make midwife appointments, now it was all about regular visits to the Health Visitor for weigh-ins, and immunisations. Doing my best to ensure I gave birth to a healthy baby was only the start of my responsibility for her health.
As most readers to my blog will know, I am a Science teacher. Choosing to vaccinate Freyja was a no-brainer for me. This was something that I could actually do to help protect her from infectious diseases. What I couldn’t protect her from were the genes that she had inherited from us.
Genetics is an area that fascinates me. I love teaching my kids at school about it. It is only about 1% of your DNA that makes you unique, and you have 98% of it in common with a chimpanzee – and 50% with a banana! DNA is a truly amazing molecule, but it is also fragile and easily damaged. Mistakes in the genetic code can lead to mutations, which can have some horrible effects. It breaks my heart to think that I may have passed on faulty genes to my beautiful girl, or that she is more prone to certain diseases in the future because of her DNA.
Having studied genetics, I am also fully aware of how stem cell medicine is becoming more and more important to us. Basically, stem cells are non-specialised cells that can be transformed into other types of cells. Because they have the same genetics as the patient, tissues produced from them are not going to be rejected by the body.
I was really excited when BioEden got in touch with me, to tell me about their work. They are the world’s first specialist tooth cell bank, and they basically harvest and store stem cells from children’s teeth. These cells could then be used to develop a cure for diseases developed later on in a child’s life. The source of stem cells from embryos is controversial, but stem cells can be obtained from other sources. BioEden extracts Mesenchymal Stem Cells from a child’s milk teeth and stores them for potential use in the future. I find it amazing that these potentially life-saving cells can be taken so easily and painlessly from teeth that have fallen out from a child’s mouth.
BioEden offer two plans. If, like Freyja, your child is aged 5 or over, or has a wobbly tooth, BioEden recommend you order a Tooth Recovery and Collection Kit (which costs £45). This contains everything you need to safely package and store your child’s milk tooth for it to be sent off to the BioEden laboratory.
If your child is younger than 5, then you can sign up for the Access Plan. Here you can put away a regular, affordable monthly amount. It means that you will pay the current price for storing your child’s stem cells, years before they have lost their first tooth. You also get the Tooth Recovery and Collection Kit free and credit towards the Tooth Processing and Laboratory fees.
This is why Science is so brilliant. When we can use it to do so much good. To find cures to diseases that were previously incurable. To give us a way that we can safeguard our children’s health in the future.
So, with two wobbly front teeth, we are waiting with baited breath for Freyja to lose her first tooth. Which one will it be? Will it fall out at home or at school? How much money does the Tooth Fairy give nowadays? Whatever happens, I will be sharing our experience of sending her first tooth off to BioEden on the blog.
This post has been written in collaboration with BioEden, but all thoughts and opinions are my own