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Biotech Medicine

Using Wisdom Teeth To Make Stem Cells 82

An anonymous reader writes "For most people, wisdom teeth are not much more than an annoyance that eventually needs to be removed. However, a new study appearing in the September 17 Journal of Biological Chemistry shows that wisdom teeth contain a valuable reservoir of tissue for the creation of stem cells; thus, everyone might be carrying around his or her own personal stem-cell repository should he or she ever need some. Groundbreaking research back in 2006 revealed that inducing the activity of four genes in adult cells could 'reprogram' them back into a stem-cell-like state; biologically, these induced-pluripotent stem cells are virtually identical to embryonic stem cells, opening up a new potential avenue for stem-cell therapy whereby patients could be treated with their own stem cells."
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Using Wisdom Teeth To Make Stem Cells

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  • Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schmidt349 (690948) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @11:51AM (#33545940)

    Could you maybe have told me this _before_ I had them yanked?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by M8e (1008767)
      I bet your dentist is a yank.
    • by pizzach (1011925)
      Nonsense. Your genetic datas was probably already overly corrupted from coke and coffee. I do not want to see the body parts they may grow from it and attach to you unless you have already had the appropriate gene therapy and enough crest whitening strips. :3
    • Yeah, I just had mine taken out last week. Now I'm wondering if the dentist still has them and can I get them back?

      • I still have 3 on my jaws, I just had one pulled out because a hard-to-reach cavity transformed into a hole that started to collect food and stuff. And it started to hurt. I didn't want to part with it, I liked to have ALL my teeth. I guess now I appreciate those molars even more!

        Oh, and I DID ask for that tooth back. It's in my bathroom now haha.
        • by TheLink (130905)

          I didn't want to part with it, I liked to have ALL my teeth. I guess now I appreciate those molars even more!

          Oh, and I DID ask for that tooth back. It's in my bathroom now haha.

          So you do still have all your teeth? :)

          Hmmm, maybe I should start keeping my hair before I start balding...

        • by Rick17JJ (744063)
          I still have 2 of my 4 wisdom teeth. For many years, I did not even realize that I had wisdom teeth, because all 4 grew in sideways and were not visible beneath the gum.

          When I was in my 40s, my two lower wisdom teeth were removed. One of the wisdom teeth was causing a very slight problem with keeping my gum clean alongside the next tooth.

          Both my dentist and the maxiofacial surgeon said they hope they never have to try to remove the upper two, because it would take dynamite to remove either of them. If I rem
          • There are so many odd things about growing wisdom teeth that I'm amazed they've survived evolution so far. My sister had to get hers removed because 2 of them were growing sideways against the other teeth and they were pushing them together, with the risk of having crooked teeth in a while if she didn't remove them. And the other ones didn't grow completely and they got cavities on the hidden sides so it was dangerous too.

            Mine grew up fine, I actually liked having an extra set of chewing teeth. That one
            • by hitmark (640295)

              i think they survived because the surrounding teeth would either be lost by the time they show up (thanks to no dental hygiene), or the person was already dead from other issues (iirc, the 60+ age of today is not one a human would have expected before the discovery of medicine).

    • You're probably still covered until you run out of teeth. Remember to brush and floss!

      • by aliquis (678370)

        You're probably still covered until you run out of teeth. Remember to brush and floss!

        Why? Now we can just grow new ones!

    • by camperslo (704715)

      I can just see it now, rogue dentists abducting people to steal their teeth.
      Pretty twisted, might make a good Futurama episode. (Perhaps Benders bolts, or nuts could be a target too)

    • Did you have them pulled before September 17th 2010? Because expecting your dentist to follow research that isn't in his field, hasn't been published yet, and likely wasn't even started by the time you had yours out, that's probably unrealistic.

      Anyway, wisdom teeth probably aren't the only source of pluripotent stem cells. Work in mouse has shown that their whisker bulge carries neural crest stem cells, trials are underway to see if these cells can fix damaged spinal cords.

    • I never had wisdom teeth so I guess I am out of luck, too. Funny thing is that I never had any wisdom either, so go figure.

      • by OakDragon (885217)

        I never had wisdom teeth so I guess I am out of luck, too.

        Hah! I'll bet you never had any-

        Funny thing is that I never had any wisdom either, so go figure.

        Aw crap!

  • They too have stem cells. I told me niece's mom to save her baby teeth, but of course she didn't listen and threw them in the trash. (sigh). She also claims she didn't know the sun would cause her skin to freckle & wrinkle and wish someone had warned her (which I did; as did many many government PSAs). I wonder why it is some people don't listen?

    Anyway if you have kids save their teeth.

  • Just wisdom teeth? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mibe (1778804) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @12:06PM (#33546064)
    It seems from everything I've read that any teeth will do. Kids' baby teeth and wisdom teeth have been mentioned, but why not any other tooth? Wisdom teeth are anatomically similar to the rest of your teeth, so I don't think anyone willing to give up one of their permanent teeth will be excluded from any awesome stem cell therapy in the future.
    • by durrr (1316311) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @12:09PM (#33546084)
      In the future, you'll see toothless guys hauling dick on wheelbarrows.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PCM2 (4486)

      From TFA, it sounds as though any tooth will do, but you probably don't want to suck all the pulp out of the teeth that are still in your mouth. Wisdom teeth are usually taken out anyway, which is what makes them a convenient option.

      • by geogob (569250)

        If it's what it needs to grow me back a new heart, lung, kidney, liver or leg when I need one, I'd gladly give a tooth or two for it. And technically, if that works, maybe they can grow the tooth back afterward...

      • by aliquis (678370)

        Could I get some from my penis and/or testicles? I don't use them anyway.

  • by wickerprints (1094741) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @12:32PM (#33546236)

    At least, most people do. The root pulp cells being converted to stem cells are not unique to the wisdom teeth. I presume they are also present in other teeth; it's just that the third molars are usually extracted anyway (though some people do retain them, provided there's enough space in the dentition for them). If we're talking about choosing to treat a life-threatening disease versus keeping a tooth, I would think most people would choose the former--of course, we aren't quite at the point where such procedures are beyond the research stage (thanks to the religious nutcases).

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have never heard of any group, religious nut cases or otherwise, protesting adult stem cell research. Quite the opposite. One of the principal arguments made by those who oppose embryonic stem cell research is that the same or better treatments can be accomplished through adult stem cell research. In fact, virtually all therapeutic procedures that have so far been developed from stem cells have involved the use of adult stem cells.

      I support embryonic stem cell research. But unless and until someone c

      • by mibe (1778804)

        Being able to do the same thing with adult stem cells is not the issue. The issue is that we had to spend (are currently spending) a considerable amount of time figuring out how to reproduce pluripotent stem cells from adult tissue - and then figuring out what to do with them. Consider an alternate history of scientific advancement in which embryonic stem cells were used without as much restriction, treatments created to use them to combat major human illnesses, etc. At the same time (or even afterward, if

        • References please. Show where embryonic stem cells from harvested embryos have treated any illness in humans successfully. No, umbilical cord blood and the like don't count. Show me where the protested embryonic stem cell research has successfully treated anything in humans.
          • You obviously didn't bother to read what the parent said at all. Doubt you'll read what I say, but here I go feeding the troll.

            It is very difficult to use embryonic stem cells in direct treatments. At best, it could only have half of your genetic makeup, and likely still suffer rejection issues. The point the parents however was making is that embryonic stem cells take almost 1/10th or some other extremely lower amount of time to "proof of concept" a treatment that can then move onto a real treatment wher
    • As far as I am aware, the one can obtain mesenchymal stem cells [] (the kind the researchers found in wisdom teeth) in garden variety bone marrow. The kind every has. Getting bone marrow samples is slightly unpleasant (about on the level of having your wisdom teeth removed) and technically quite easy.

      So I don't really see the whoopy factor in this.
    • it's just that the third molars are usually extracted anyway (though some people do retain them, provided there's enough space in the dentition for them).

      True that — it all depends on what available space there is. My teeth are so big, I had my lower wisdom teeth and all four second molars extracted as a kid. I only have 24 teeth! :B

      On a side note, my upper wisdom teeth haven't grown yet and it's been practically ten years since I had my lower wisdom teeth extracted... Now, that's weird.

    • by Muad'Dave (255648)

      I don't know of any religion that is against ADULT stem cells or cord blood cells. The ones that are harvested from embryos, yes, but adult and cord cells are no problem.

      You don't get that the argument is terminating a life to harvest embryonic cells, I take it?

  • by jav1231 (539129)
    Had we known they were THAT wise, would we have been so cavalier about pulling them?
  • No. It's not safe, it's... very dangerous, be careful.
  • So what do I do with them? Stem cells do what again? Something I need?

    Will they reset my vent fibula, and regrow cartilage, so my ankle doesn't click and hurt?

    Will they regrow hair on my head, so I can have it cut again instead of shaved?

    Will they help me lose weight?

    Will they heal my shoulder tendonitis?

    Will they cure my vision [] problems?

    I know, I know, stem cells are expected to cure cancer, autism, diabetes, whatever. Common stuff, not so much. That's the appeal. But the research is dragging on.


  • Dear Slashdot,

    Please stop finding uses for these useless body parts. The day after my appendix was removed I see that they finally discovered a use for the human appendix, and yesterday I get my wisdom teeth pulled.

    No more body parts removed for me.


  • ... perhaps I could borrow some stem cells long enough to grow some new wisdom teeth from them?

  • In a related news... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Katatsumuri (1137173) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @03:00PM (#33547478)
    Japanese scientists successfully made stem cells from wisdom teeth back in 2008. []

    They used wisdom teeth that had been frozen for three years after being removed from a 10-year-old girl.

  • It's not like anything [] could go wrong [] with this.

  • thanks science. always making advances after the point of usefulness has come and gone. Maybe my teeth are still in a bag somewhere....
  • It's nice to see people using wisdom to bite into the stem cell issue.

  • What you're telling us is that there's a source for stem cells that does not require the destruction of a human embryo?

    This administration will not find that acceptable.


  • 'wisdom teeth are not much more than an annoyance that eventually needs to be removed' - is this correct? I really hope not. I have mine, they grew with no problems at all and I'm bloody glad to have them.
  • From Wikipedia: "Potential uses for extracted teeth:

    In August 2008, it was revealed that scientists in Japan were able to successfully harvest stem cells from wisdom teeth.[19] This discovery is of great clinical importance, as wisdom tooth extractions are a relatively common type of oral surgery. Patients who have their wisdom teeth removed are currently able to opt to have stem cells from those teeth isolated and saved, in case they should ever need the cells."

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