CITRUS HEIGHTS (CBS13) - A Citrus Heights family is clinging to hope, desperate to find a cure for their son Austin's type-1 diabetes.
"If it works, you hit the lottery," said Stance Schudy, Austin's father.
The family is shining a light on the practice of "tooth banking", preserving their kids' baby teeth so stem cells can be harvested for future use in treating disease.
The practice of cryopreserving children's baby teeth has been around for more than a decade, and the research is still in the experimental phase. But some experts say at the rate science and technology is quickly advancing, the future looks promising.
"Austin was diagnosed as type-1 diabetic at the age of 10 and it came as a real shock," said Schudy.
The Citrus Heights father says the news of his young boy being diagnosed sent him into a spiral of research.
"I started reading about the possibility of stem cells," he said.
His research led him to a Boston based company by the name of Store a Tooth, a place where you can preserve your kids' baby teeth so stem cells can be harvested.
Schudy decided to give it a shot, and at the age 12, his son Austin's last baby tooth was extracted.
"We knew he had to have his baby teeth in order for his stem cells to be present, and we were fortunate to have enough time to get his last tooth," said Schudy.
Research on this is ongoing. In fact, the FDA has yet to approve the use of dental stem cells in any medical procedure.
"California is leading in technology when it comes to stem cells," said Dr. Gnanagurudasan Prakasam.
Sutter's Medical Director of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes says while years ago the idea of cryopreservation was exciting, now stem cells can actually be generated synthetically, in unlimited amounts.
"The trials are giving positive results, California has invested in heavy stem cell research and early results are very positive," said Dr. Prakasam.
While Dr. Prakasam questions the need for tooth banking, he says with how quickly technology is advancing "you never know," and that "hope" could be worth the investment.
"The take-home message is not to give up hope," he said.
Meanwhile, Austin is now 19 years old and is grateful that his parents looked out for him at the opportune time by saving his last baby tooth.
"I'm hopeful now. It's a feeling of a possible second chance," said Austin.
As for the cost? The family says it's fairly inexpensive. They said they spent a few hundred dollars for the extraction and lab analysis of the tooth, and they're paying about $10 a month to store it.
For more information: http://www.store-a-tooth.com/
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