Many of the problems of adult stem cells compared to embryonic stem cells are solved with this new research. But when it comes to reversing or preventing aging this new research falls short. Everyone knows that Dolly the Sheep was the first successful example of cloning of a mammal. What is not so well known is the premature aging that affected Dolly. When Dolly was two years old, physiologically she was as old as her mother. This phenomenon is due to telomeres, small amounts of DNA found on the end of chromosomes that shorten as cells age and that are responsible, at least in part for the disease of aging.
Studies with stem cells have shown that when healthy young stem cells are introduced to the body they travel to all sites and replace older and unhealthy stem cells. The beauty of the research at the University of Wisconsin is that we will soon be able to use patient’s own cells to create new stem cells for medical treatment.
These cells however will not treat aging that is caused by shortening of the telomeres. I propose that there is a way to promote the development of personal stem cells with the potential to slow or reverse aging or even act as a vaccine against aging.
The collection of young healthy stem cells has always been problematic, whether it is the ethical issues of embryonic stem cells, the pain of bone marrow collection or the problems associated with umbilical cord blood collection. Each of these techniques will continue to be used however there is a better alternative available.
Stem cells have been shown to exist in the dental pulp and periodontal ligaments of baby teeth and wisdom teeth and these may have value for research purposes but there is an exciting source of significant numbers of stem cells suitable for both research and medical purposes and the collection of these stem cells will actually improve patient’s lives.
Millions of patients go thru the pain and discomfort of wisdom tooth extraction every year with associated morbidities and it is big business for oral surgeons. The idea that one should wait for third molars to develop before they are taken out is commonly accepted.
But what if there is a better alternative. Minimally invasive surgery is now seen in all areas of medicine and waiting for wisdom teeth to become large and difficult to remove simply may not make sense anymore.
Early removal of wisdom teeth prior to calcification can be accomplished quickly and easily with little discomfort. Waiting for calcification for removal makes the process more difficult. I have several patents on methods and devices that would allow minimally invasive removal of wisdom teeth prior to calcification when the tooth bud is just under the surface of the gum. The uncalcified tooth would contain a vast variety of stem cells including those found in dental pulp and periodontal ligaments. A simple procedure taking only a couple of minutes would allow easy collection of young healthy stem cells that form the tooth eventually developing into blood vessels and nerves as well as enamel, dentin, periodontal ligaments and nerve endings involved in proprioception as well as young healthy bone marrow. All of these stem cells would be young and healthy being collected between 10-12 years of age. They would have intact telomeres and would be ideal for storage for future personal use for anti-aging or organ regeneration. Personal storage of stem cells assures a perfect match for whatever future uses may develop. The research at University of Wisconsin could easily be applied to these higher quality stem cells.
Collection of stem cells for personal use is controversial because the proven therapies treated with stem cells are still small. The future of medicine is rapidly evolving and new therapies requiring stem cells are rapidly developing. There are only two good opportunities to easily collect young healthy stem cells that are a perfect match for you. One alternative is early prophylactic removal of the wisdom tooth bud and the other alternative is umbilical cord blood that is currently saving lives when banked for public use. Personal banking of umbilical cord is increasing in popularity with parents who want to insure their children benefit from yet to be discovered uses of stem cells. Collection of stem cells from baby teeth and extracted wisdom teeth are currently discussed but do not deliver the same quality, selection or quantity of cells.
The minimally invasive techniques for early wisdom tooth removal should be considered to decrease morbidity to patients regardless whether or not the stem cells are saved. The idea of waiting till the teeth are as large as possible and the making a big hole in the jaw to remove them must be questioned.
The instruments and techniques designed for minimally invasive removal of wisdom teeth can be modified for the minimally invasive collection of bone marrow from the hip, drastically reducing morbidity and pain as well as from less invasive areas like the sternum.
While the idea of an Anti-Aging vaccine seems like science fiction it is possible to actually test the concept today. There are lines of genetically identical mice where each and every mouse has identical DNA. Two groups of these mice could be raised with matched pairs having the same environment. Collection of young healthy bone marrow could be accomplished from younger genetically identical mice and these young healthy stem cells with intact telomeres could be evaluated for their effect on lifespan and chronic disease states. There could be a single infusion of stem cells or multiple periodic infusions and there would be no problems with rejection due to genetic compatibility. Theoretically the younger healthier stem cells will replace the aging stem cells and a virtual vaccine against aging using our own cells would be possible. Due to the short life span of mice results could be obtained in years rather than decades.
It would also be possible to induce diseases and see if natural healing processes could cure them after reintroducing healthy stem cells with intact telomeres. We already know stem cells will spread throughout the body and since they are genetically identical no anti-rejection protocols would be needed. Stem cells would have no problems with adverse drug effects
The social consequences of an anti-aging vaccine could be somewhat Orwellian as those who could afford treatment would have longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives freed from many of the problems that afflict man as he ages. What effects will this have on families and the passing on of wealth? Will it exacerbate the already unequal distribution of resources? Will countries like the US take advantage of this technology while third world countries fall further behind? What would be the implications on educational objectives if learning abilities could be enhanced throughout life? Should our lawmakers examine these issues today because a brave new world is certainly approaching? Possibly the fallout will be positive and slowing of aging could reduce the massive spending on medical care. If life spans doubled or tripled maybe the inordinate amount of money spent on end of life care could be reduced. What would happen if there was no natural end of life? The implications are amazing and have been the fodder for many books, movies and shows already.
Women today often make choices about having children and whether they can walk away from career paths to raise families. Their decisions could change when time as the most valuable commodity becomes a renewable research. Changes in family structure and relationships are inevitable when the older generations look and feel the same as younger generations, and what would be the result of having several productive generations simultaneously? Social security and retirement concepts would have to change to accommodate longer life spans.
The real changes might be in the personalities of the individuals in a population that no longer sees themselves subject to a limited lifespan. There would be more time to experiment and create, and mistakes in life would have time to be corrected.
The master of possibilities Kurt Vonnegut would have much to say about a future of long-lived humans. Would his ethical suicide parlors become an accepted part of life where after living one or two lifetime’s people would have a right to decide enough and go in style? He saw a world where populations grew and resources shrank and our planet became overcrowded and suicide parlors served the community and the individual. Would governments decide on who qualified for longer lives?
I am currently looking for a corporate partner to develop and promote early minimally invasive wisdom tooth removal as a better alternative to the current procedures. All parents should have the opportunity and ability to procure the promise of their children’s stem cells. The ability to study life extension and eliminate the disease of aging is now available. While stem cells will not answer all the questions the experiments described here are an easy beginning and can be done at relatively low expense.
Dr. Shapira is a general dentist practicing in Gurnee, Illinois and treating sleep apnea patients with CPAP Alternatives that have no mask, no hose, and no compressor. He treats TMJ / TMD and chronic migraine and headache patients using neuromuscular dental techniques. He uses these same principles to do cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry on his patients. He is A Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and the Dental Section Editor of Sleep and Health Journal. Dental Sleep Medicine information is available at http://www.ihatecpap.com He is currently working to create a similar resource for patients suffering from headaches, migraines and TMJ Disorders. His domain http://www.ihateheadaches.org currently gives information on Neuromuscular Dental Solutions but will soon become a national site to connect patients and neuromuscular dentists.
Information on his office is available at http://www.delanydentalcare.com