Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have shown that ordinary skin cells can be turned into cells that resemble embyonic stem cells and this is exciting news as it will speed development of enormous changes in medicine without the thorny ethical issues of deriving stem cells from embryos.
Dr Shapira realized many years ago that adult stem cells were a valuable resource. There are problems with adult stem cells when it comes to reversing or preventing aging. Everyone knows that Dolly the Sheep was the first successful example of cloning 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 phenomena is due to Telomeres small amounts of DNA found on the end of chromosones 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 cellls 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 patients 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. Dr Shapira proposes 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 health stem cells has always been problematic, whether it is the ethical issues of embryomic stem cells, the pain of bone marrow collection or the problems 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 teethand 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 patients 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 may not make sense anymore.
Early removal of wisdom teeth before calcification can be done quickly with little pain or morbidity. Waiting for calcification for removal makes the process more difficult. Dr Ira Shapira has patents on methods and devices that would allow minimally invasive removal of wisdom teeth before 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 the one found in dental pulp and periodontal ligaments. A simple proceedure taking only a couple of minutes would allow easy collection of young healthy stem cells that eventually develop 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 between10-12 years of age and have intact telomeres and be ideal for storage for future personal use for anti-aging or organ regeneration. The research at University of Wisconsin could easily be applied these higher quality 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 opportunities to easily collect young healthy stem cells that are a perfect match for yourself. The other alternative is umbilical cord blood that is currently saving lives when banked for public use but is also being banked for personal use. Personal banking of umbilical cord is increasing in popularity.
The minimally invasive techniques for early wisdom tooth removal should be utilized to decrease morbidity to patients regardless whether or not the stem cells are saved.
Dr Shapira also believes that the instruments and techniques he has designed can also be used today for 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 envirement. 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.
It would also be possible to induce disease and see if they could be cured by reintroducing stem cells with intact telomeres.
The social consequences of an anti-aging vacine 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 wealth. Will countries like the US take advantage of this technology while third worl countries fall further behind. What would be the implications on educational objectives if learning abilities could be enhanced throughout life. Should our lawmakes 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 may the inordinate amount of money spent on end of life care could be reduced. Then againg what if there was no end of life? The implications are amazing and have been the fodder for man books, movies and shows already.
Women tody often make choices about having children and whether they walk away from career paths to raise families, their decisions could change when time the most valuable commodity becomes a renewable research. Changes in families structure and relationships are inevitable when the older generations look and feel the same as younger generations and having several productive generations simultaneously. Social security and retirement concepts would have to change to accomodate longer life spans.
The real changes might be in the personalities of the a population that no longer sees themselves subject to a limited lifespan. There would be more time to experiment and create, 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 lifetimes 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.
Dr Shapira is currently looking for a partner to develop and promote early minimally invasive wisdom tooth removal as a better alternative to the current proceedures. He would like to offer all parents the ability to save their childrens stem cells. He is also hoping to find a medical partner interested in minimal invsive collection of bone marrow.
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 treats sleep apnea patients without cpap, 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 currently the Dental Section Editor of Sleep and Health Journal (http://www.sleepandhealth.com ) and promotes Dental Sleep Medicine 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 http://www.delanydentalcare.com
About the Author
Dr Shapira has several patents on collection of stem cells from developing wisdom teeth and has developed techniques for minimally invasive early removal of wisdom teeth. He was a frequent lecturer at A4M tha American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and has the only chapter in a medical textbook on Anti-Aging Dentistry taken fro an A4M lecture given to 2000 physicians. Dr Shapira is best known for his pioneering work in treating sleep apnea