What to do with your child’s baby teeth – Bioeden
At the start of the year, I wrote about the decisions that I have had to make as a parent regarding my daughters’ health. I started working with Bioeden, to look at the role they play in harvesting and storing stem cells. I am very excited about their work, as I do really believe that in the future stem cells will have a massive impact on medicine and health care. If there is the possibility that some diseases they develop in the future could be cured by using their stem cells, then I don’t want my girls to miss out on this opportunity.
Bioeden harvest mesenchymal stem cells. These can be found in bone marrow, however, they have also been discovered in teeth. Not only are these ones far superior to the ones in the bone marrow, collecting them is a completely non-invasive process. These cells can be transformed into specialised cells such as muscle, cartilage, nerve, bone, liver or insulin secreting cells. And the best thing about these cells is, that because they are derived from your own cells, your body will not reject them.
The first step in the process is collecting the tooth. Bioeden had sent me the tooth retrieval kit just before Christmas as Freyja had a noticeably wobbly tooth. Months on, not only had it not fallen out, but she had a second wobbly tooth which had then become even wobblier than the first. She refused to let us pull it out. Rich showed her videos on YouTube of kids having their teeth pulled out via a huge range of whacky methods. She was having none of it. However, one evening when the tooth was half out of the gum and we had all had enough of the situation, a swift yank on a bit of dental floss tied round the tooth did the business!
Thankfully, the tooth retrieval kit was close at hand, and ice packs provided had been sat in the freezer since December. Within minutes the tooth had been placed in milk (although mini-panic about whether whole or skimmed would be best (didn’t matter as long as it was pasteurised!)) in the pot provided and then into the fridge. It could then be boxed up as per the instructions from Bioeden then next morning.
Before I could do anything else, there was something, at the time, was much more important to deal with. The Tooth Fairy. Losing teeth is a bit of a milestone, and the promise of a shiny coin under your pillow from the Tooth Fairy is a pretty BIG DEAL for a kid. I had talked to Freyja previously about how we were giving her first tooth to the Super Tooth Fairy. The Super Tooth Fairy is a Scientist. And as I have a science-based degree, I obviously know her. In fact, I have also spoken to her a few times on the phone (well, actually it was Leon from Bioeden). Bioeden do recognise that for a child not to leave their tooth out for the tooth fairy could be a bit of an issue. So they produce a storybook about Eden, the Super Tooth Fairy, to help explain to children what is going to happen to their tooth. Thankfully, Freyja was completely on board, and excited to know that the Super Tooth Fairy would be sending her a certificate once she had “done all the science” on the tooth!
The next day was a little manic. Paperwork had to be filled out, the tooth in its little container all packaged up correctly and a courier arranged. It is really important to get the tooth to them as soon as possible, and Bioeden were at the end of the phone all the time and helped make the process as easy as possible. The next stage was arranging a blood sample to be collected. This is a regulatory requirement and has to be done within seven days. It was a little more complicated as I was referred from the doctors to the children’s hospital, with health practitioners unsure about why a blood sample had to be collected. However, once again, Bioeden were there, at the end of the phone should I have needed help. Once the sample had been sent off, it was just a matter of waiting – firstly to check that the sample had “passed quarantine” and then whether stem cells could be identified. Even when this has happened, the cell sample has to be grown to a suitable number for storage and then pass a microbial test. It was a massive relief when we were given the good news that it had!
You may notice from the picture that Freyja now has two “grown up teeth” coming through. Well, two days after the first tooth came out, the other wobbly one followed. It was then that it really hit me just how worthwhile banking stem cells from teeth really is. Freyja’s first tooth has yielded cells which could some day (and I really hope it doesn’t come to it) save her life. Freyja’s second tooth is now sat in a box in one of my drawers. Hidden away to preserve the magic of the Tooth Fairy, but doing absolutely nothing.
I wonder how many other teeth there are, just hidden away somewhere, forgotten, that could have been put to much better use. I hope that in the future, Freyja is never in a position where she needs to use these valuable stem cells that have been stored cryogenically. However, should the worst happen it might be that this, otherwise discarded tooth, may have safeguarded her future health. If you would rather have your child’s lost teeth do something amazing, do head over to the Bioeden page and find out more about how you can use them to possibly save their life in the future.