Rugby star and Dancing on Ice winner, Kyran Bracken, is trying to protect his children’s future by making the most of their milk teeth.
After discovering that baby teeth are a source of stem cells, the Brackens have decided to store them, in the hope that one day the cells could be used to save their children’s lives or keep them healthy.
Stem cells are used to treat leukemia, other types of cancer and blood disorders. Soon they might be used to repair cardiac tissue after a heart attack, treat nerve damage or repair cartilage. Stem cells are currently extracted from bone marrow and babies’ umbilical cords but there is hope that teeth stem cells could be used in the future.
In 2003 stem cell scientist, Dr Songtao Shi, made the breakthrough with dental stem cells when he noticed that the soft tissue inside his daughter’s milk tooth was still living. He extracted the cells from the pulp and discovered that some of them started to grow.
The Brackens, who have three children – Charlie, 6, Jack, 4 and Lochlan, 1 – have registered with BioEden, the only company to store teeth stem cells in this country. When the boys lose a tooth it’s packaged up and sent to the lab in Cheshire, where the cells are extracted and stored in a test tube at 170°C for around 20 years – or potentially longer. It costs £950 to process the cells, plus £90 a year to store them.
However, there is no guarantee that stem cell therapy will live up to its expectations and provide any security in the future. So is it worth it?
“The process is expensive but, God forbid, if one of my kids became unwell later on in life, I’d hate to be left thinking: ‘If only we’d stored them…’” Kyran told the Daily Mail.
Has it made the tooth fairy redundant in the Bracken household? “We’ll just have to explain she took the tooth very quickly,” says Kyran, “but Charlie will still get money under his pillow – he’s hoping for £2.”