A SCOTTISH schoolgirl has become the first child in Britain to bank her stem cells by removing some of her baby teeth.
The process was kept in the family with her dentist father, Callum Graham, carrying out the pioneering procedure.
Callum and wife Heather decided to freeze and store daughter Becca’s milk teeth so the youngster can take advantage of future medical advances in stem cell research which could, one day, save their little girl’s life should she fall ill.
Stem cells are more typically taken from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood and it is hoped the cells – known as the “building blocks of life” – will provide new medical treatments for a range of illnesses.
The cells taken from baby teeth are already being used by research scientists looking at new ways of treating – and even preventing – strokes, liver disease, diabetes and heart attacks.
Seven-year-old Becca, who lives in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, has had her two “wobbly front teeth” removed by her father at his Glasgow dental practice. The dental pulp from the youngster’s milk teeth will be collected, frozen and stored for 30 years or more until she might need them to be used to find treat a future illness.
Becca described getting her teeth out as “a little bit sore”, but said her biggest worry was when the tooth fairy would visit her. The youngster said: “I wrote a wee letter to her to explain and she sent me back £5.”
The Grahams revealed they considered banking stem cells when Becca was born, but were too late to arrange for cells to be taken from her umbilical cord.
They got the idea of using their daughter’s teeth, which were going to be removed anyway, after seeing a leaflet for cell banking company Precious Cells at the surgery.
Father-of-three Mr Graham said: “There’s been an awful lot of research lately regarding stem cells and how to deliver them and use them to cure diseases and cancers.
“We had been looking for a way to store stem cells when Rebecca was born. We’d heard all about it and thought it was a good idea.
“Although there’s not a lot of treatments just now, we knew there was a future in it, in personalised biotechnology, where everybody cures themselves. It’s a fabulous service to be able to offer your children.
“Becca was brilliant. We explained the relevance of it, why we were going to take her tooth and she was a brilliant wee patient. It’s always a little bit nerve-wracking treating members of your family or your friends.”
Mrs Graham, who works as an administrator at the same surgery, said: “I knew I wanted to keep her teeth to bank them because with the progress that science has made now, and the things that stem cells can do at the moment, who knows what it’s going to be like in ten years, 20 or 30 years.
“It’s such a gift to be able to give your child. We told her that inside her wee tooth there are cells and they’ll go underground in a big freezer. If ever she needs an operation or if something happens, her cells are there to make her better. The only thing she was worried about was the tooth fairy.”
The Grahams said doctors have already used dental cells taken from patients at their Glasgow surgery to regenerate dental bone and treat dental diseases.