An American family are hoping their son’s last baby tooth might one day help to cure his type 1 diabetes.
It’s a long shot, but the family from Citrus Heights in California thinks it is worth taking.
Austin Schudy, 19, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 10 and his father, Stance, said the news came as a “real shock”.
The family set about researching type 1 diabetes and potential treatments, where they learnt about ‘tooth banking’, the name given for preserving children’s teeth for stem cell therapy.
Mr Schudy found a company, based in Boston, which specialises in storing the teeth so stem cells can be harvested.
The company says baby teeth make a great source of stem cells because of the dental pulp, and as they naturally fall out anyway choosing to bank them keeps future treatment options open.
The process of collection is simple, and the teeth are safely sent to the lab where the stem cells are processed, frozen and stored in a specially designed facility.
Speaking to local news station CBS Sacremento, Mr Schudy said: “We knew he had to have his baby teeth in order for his stem cells to be present, and we were fortunate to have enough time to get his last tooth.”
Mr Schudy’s family spent a few hundred dollars for the extraction and lab analysis of the tooth and pay $10 a month to store it.
Although the technique has been around for the last 10 years, the technology is still at the experimental stage, both in the US and also in the UK, where companies are also providing similar services.
The idea is that preserving stem cells within the dental pulp of baby teeth may in future help researchers to develop a person-specific sure. However, no such cure has been created for type 1 diabetes and so the investment in baby teeth storage represents a gamble on the future.