In future, children will not be putting their early teeth aside for the tooth fairy to collect, but putting them instead into a stem cell bank.

Rather than being rewarded with a coin, stem cells within the tooth will be stored to cure them of some of the deadliest afflictions they might suffer half a century later.

“Parents will want to store the stem cells found in the pulp inside these juvenile teeth in liquid nitrogen” says Dr Stan Gronthos, a haematologist at the Hanson Institute in Adelaide, South Australia. “That way they could be used to grow new teeth and perhaps even cure neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease.”

He predicts they will become effective for growing replacement brain tissue to overcome stroke damage as well as basal cell degradation linked with Parkinson’s.

The research Dr Gronthos highlighted took centre stage at the Australian Stem Cell Scientific Conference in October.

Many delegates to the Sydney conference expressed optimism that cells extracted from the pulp of children’s milk teeth would be more versatile than embryonic material, as well as more ethically acceptable.

In 2000 Dr Gronthos was working at the National Institutes of Health in the US with Dr Songtao Shi when they unexpectedly found colonies of stem cells inside adult teeth.

This caused Dr Shi to examine a milk tooth discarded by his six-year-old daughter. He found it contained potentially more versatile stem cells than the adult teeth.

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