Can baby teeth provide a future cure?

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on September 15, 2011 at 12:21 AM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:45 AM

Fifteen-year-old Alexa Brenner doesn't know what it's like not to have Type 1 diabetes.

"I was 14 months old when I was diagnosed," she said.

In some ways that's made coping easier for her, but not for her mother.

"I always say that when Alexa was born, it was the happiest day of my life and when Alexa was diagnosed, it was the worst day of my life," said Georgia Spiropoulos.

With no family history, Georgia never thought to bank Alexa's cord blood, but now she feels she's been given a second chance.

"Store-A-Tooth, all of a sudden, for me gave us renewed hope. That now there was something in  our hands that we can control. Now I felt empowered."

The kit comes in the mail with everything you need.

Alexa explains how it works.

"You bring it to your (dentist), they take out your teeth and then the put them in the stuff that's in there and then they ship it off," she said.

Once at the lab, the dental stem cells are extracted and then frozen.

"The advantage of dental stem cells obviously is that you have multiple opportunities to bank them," said Peter Verlander , Chief Scientific Officer for Store-A-Tooth, which is based just outside of Boston.

However, the research is still in its infancy and some see this service  as more marketing hype than science.

Verlander counters that  the company is very clear about what it is selling.

"Always when we talk to our parents, we want to understand what the state of the research is, that this is the promise of something that may come in a number of years," he said.

Georgia considers it an insurance policy for the future, if dental stem cells do prove to be a cure for diabetes.

"My philosophy is how could you not do this," she said.

Daughter Alexa echoes that sentiment.

"There's a lot of hope in this. It may work out, it may not, but at least it's good to know that I have a plan if it does."

Banking teeth is much less expensive than banking cord blood, but the two are not the same.

Each produces a different kind of stem cell. Cord blood is being used now to treat certain blood cancers, while dental stem cells are still in the very early stages of research.

To find out more information about Store-A-Tooth click here.

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