A seven-year-old Scots girl has become the first child in the UK to have stem cells banked using her baby teeth – extracted by her dentist father.
Becca Graham's parents Callum and Heather decided to freeze and store their daughter's milk teeth so the youngster can take advantage of future medical advances in stem cell research.
Stem cells from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood have been used for decades to treat leukaemia and other blood-related diseases.
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Teeth are an "incredible source" of stem cells, Mr Graham said, and researchers are studying how they could be used to treat a number of diseases and conditions including diabetes, spinal cord injuries, stroke and liver problems.
Becca, who lives in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, had her two wobbly front teeth removed by her father at his Glasgow dental practice.
The dental pulp from the milk teeth will be collected, frozen and stored for 30 years or more until needed. Becca said the extraction was "a little bit sore" but that her real concern was about the tooth fairy.
"I wrote a wee letter to her to explain and she sent me back £5," she said with a toothless grin.
Doctors have already used dental cells to regenerate dental bone and treat periodontal disease, said Mr Graham, from Queen's Drive Dental Practice in Glasgow.
The dentist and his wife started to think about banking stem cells around the time of Becca's birth but were too late to arrange for cells to be taken from the umbilical cord.
They got the idea of using their daughter's teeth 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, leukaemia, diabetes 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. It's a fabulous service to be able to offer your children."