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Jamaica Hospital harvests stem cells in baby teeth

Parents may want to think again about giving their child’s baby teeth to the tooth fairy.

Jamaica Hospital announced last week that it will be offering patients a less invasive option of collecting and banking stem cells.

The hospital’s dental clinic is working with the StemSave corporation to organize the innovative initiative that collects the cells from infants and children. Using cutting-edge technology, the process involves storing stem cells from baby and wisdom teeth after they fall out or are removed, according to Dr. Silvestro Iommazzo, the associate director of pediatric dentistry at Jamaica Hospital.

“What makes this breakthrough significant is that it is more affordable than other stem cell banking options, the stem cells can be stored for 20 years or longer and it gives parents a convenient opportunity to save their children’s stem cells,” he said in a statement.

There are several factors involved in donating a tooth to the stem cell bank, according to hospital officials.

Patients would first have to meet with their dentist to determine if they are eligible for the process, which Iommazzo said is non-invasive since the tooth comes out naturally for children or is removed during a dental procedure. A canine or incisor is the preferred tooth and must have an intact blood supply and be free of infection or other ailments, according to the hospital.

A tooth that is “excessively loose” or has already fallen out is unusable since the blood supply to the dental pulp is cut off, according to Iommazzo.

Although the process is meant for banking younger patients’ stem cells, the hospital said adults up to 55 years old are eligible for the procedure.

Stem cells can be used to develop different cell and tissues and have been applied in research for regenerative medicine. The cells could be used to help find treatments and cures for a number of diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and paralysis, according to scientists.

Art Greco, CEO of StemSave, said the dental procedure has proven successful and is part of a growing trend to bring stem cell research into practical application.

“We’re seeing remarkable applications in labs across the country and we believe now is the time to save your own stem cells so families have the opportunity to take part in the treatments of the future,” he said in a statement.

For more information on Jamaica Hospital’s program, call 718-206-6980.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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