The Pros And Cons Of Dental Pulp And Blood Cord Banking For Stem Cells.

Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on the subject of stem cell research, the strides that are being made on the topic are intriguing, but is it worth it? Read on to find out the pros and cons of both cord blood banking and dental pulp banking.
Michelle Bruns Maffei

Stem cells can be transformed into almost any human cell, aiding in the treatment of certain diseases your child may encounter. "This is a very exciting time for stem cell research," says Dr. David Matzilevich, M.D., Ph.D., and Chief Scientific Officer of National Dental Pulp Laboratory. "With so many potential stem cell treatments, there is still so much left to learn - and the momentum in research continues to build."  But, how do you know if the option of banking your child’s stem cells is right for your family? Here are some facts about the different options available to you.

Cord blood banking
When a baby is born, new parents have the option of taking the blood from their child’s umbilical cord, which is rich in stem cells, to have it frozen and stored in a private bank, ready for use should the need ever occur. The types of stem cells in umbilical cords are called hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs).

Pros:

  •  Used in the treatment of childhood diseases such as leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and lymphoma, to help replenish the patient’s blood supply with healthy new cells.
  •  Can help a patient’s body recover from chemotherapy or radiation.
  • May also help treat a sibling or possibly a family member.
  • Has been a proven source of successful treatment in certain diseases.
  • Stem cells from the umbilical cord are less mature, making them less likely to be rejected by the recipient’s body.
  • Collection of cord blood is painless.
  • Theory shows that the possible future treatments of many other diseases is possible with stem cells, although medical science is not quite there yet.

Cons:

  • Is costly, with initial collection fees of more than $1,000 and annual storage fees of around $100 or more.
  • Likelihood of ever needing stem cells is small.
  • Stem cells can only be stored for up to 10 years; usability after 10 years is unknown.
  • For certain diseases, banked cord blood would be ineffective for the child, because the blood would have the same problems as the child.
  • Sometimes donor stem cells are more likely to fight off certain cancers than the recipients own stem cells.
  • Due to the limited supply collected (only 3-5 ounces), stem cells are used only to treat children.
  • Stem cells aren’t the only source of treatment; donated bone marrow can be just as effective, and more readily available from a family member or a bone marrow bank.

Dental Pulp Banking
Most people are familiar with the term “cord blood banking,” but strides are also being made in the area of dental pulp banking. Dental pulp is found in the center of a tooth, and is made up of living soft tissue. The dental pulp contains Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs).

The National Dental Pulp Laboratory, Inc. offers the following pros and cons to banking your child’s dental pulp.

Pros:

  • MSCs may have the potential to be transformed into other cells including cardiac, muscle, bone, cartilage, nerve, and fat tissue.
  • Can be found in your child’s baby teeth and wisdom teeth.
  • Collection is available two different ways: through extraction of or natural loss of teeth, and through the extraction of the dental pulp while the tooth remains intact.
  • Collection is convenient and minimally invasive.
  • Each person has 52 teeth contain dental pulp, giving the donor a better chance of finding usable dental pulp to bank.
  • Gives families a chance to collect stem cells should they have pass on the opportunity to collect the cord blood.
  • Can be less costly than cord blood banking.
  • Animal testing of MSC therapies has shown significant progress in regenerating teeth with dental pulp stem cells; and human trials using these stem cells will soon be underway.

Cons:

  • The benefits and opportunity to use MSCs is theoretical; incremental progress is being made.
  • Regenerative therapies and treatments for disease still need to be thoroughly researched and approved by the FDA.
  • Age of a tooth is a factor in the total number of stem cells that can be collected.
  • Collected dental pulp must be disease free.
  • Annual fees for dental pulp banking apply.

Banking your child’s stem cells is a decision that varies from family to family. Some people feel that the costs do not justify the benefits. Others feel that the life-saving possibilities outweigh the cost of investment. The important thing is to weigh the pros and cons and make the decision that is right for your family.



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