Anticipating future illness, patients freeze stem cells from own - CBS46 News

Anticipating future illness, patients freeze stem cells from own wisdom teeth

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The procedure was like any other at the office of Dr. Andrew Aiken, with one major exception: when the oral surgeon finished pulling four wisdom teeth from the mouth of 19-year-old Reed Dobbs, the teeth weren't thrown away. They were placed in a storage box, to be shipped to a secure facility and frozen for decades to come.

"I'd never even heard about this technology until Dr. Aiken told me about it," said Dobbs. "The technology is great, and I'm just really excited about it."

The stem cells contained within his wisdom teeth could help cure a number of diseases the Georgia State University student might face. He has chosen to have those cells preserved as they are, from perhaps their healthiest stage in life, as an insurance policy against future medical conditions.

His mother, Lisa Dobbs, learned about the offer, and chose to pay the roughly $700 up front, followed by fees to renew the storage of her son's teeth.

"I feel great, and every time I'll pay the renewal, I'll feel good about it as well," said Lisa Dobbs.

In the Atlanta region, the service is being offered by a three year-old company called Vault. Its founders, Adam Houtman and Jase Wrigley, believe the time is coming when most people will make an investment to preserve their own stem cells for use later in life.

Houtman and Wrigley said their service is affordable, and could provide an avenue to stem cell preservation most people never knew they had.

"We're on the cusp of a medical revolution that's going to change everything we do in medicine," said Houtman, CEO and co-founder of Vault.

"I think using our own cells to treat ourselves, is going to become the standard of care," said Wrigley, co-founder of Vault.

They've marketed their service largely through oral surgeons who remove wisdom teeth, because that procedure is typically performed at a time in the patient's life when cells are at their peak of health.

Houtman said the treatment is not a step toward immortality, but rather a way to alleviate some of the ailments that make like unpleasant at an older age.

"What if I could retain all my faculties until old age, and not have to experience the leading causes of potential death," said Houtman. "That's something I would like to explore. I would like to maintain my muscle tone until old age, my hips, my vision, even sense of taste, and smell."

According to Dr. Franklin West, a leading stem cell researcher at the University of Georgia, adult stem cells could be used to help treat stroke, traumatic brain injury, and heart attacks.

"I think stem cell technology is a paradigm changing technology," said West. "You could actually re-grow the bone or re-grow the hips and joints, and you can actually transplant them."

Reed Dobbs hopes he never has to use the cells that have been frozen from his wisdom teeth. But if that day comes later in his life, he feels a unique sense of optimism about his treatment possibilities.

"I hope I never have to use it," said Reed Dobbs. "But I like having the security."

To learn more about Vault and the cost of their services, visit their website here.

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