Parents who keep their children's baby teeth may not be quite so weird after all. Researchers have discovered that baby teeth contain potentially lifesaving stem cells that could be used to help treat many kinds of medical conditions and injuries.
Baby teeth are packed with stem cell-rich bone marrow which has been exposed to relatively little environmental damage due to their short period of use.
Because stem cells do not yet have an assigned function they can be used to treat all kinds of human ailments that require cell regeneration, from cancer to re-growing bones, and now even heart attacks, say researchers from the United States National Center for Biotechnology.
While stem cells have been used to treat medical conditions for some time now, doctors have traditionally needed to obtain bone marrow - which is difficult to access and a painful procedure for the patient - in order to perform stem cell treatment.
Now it could be as simple as mining that collection of baby teeth collected from childhood.
The number of medical conditions that can be treated with the cells is also broadening. Scientists are currently looking at re-growing neural cells in the brain and are working on ways stem cells can prevent heart attacks.
Stem cells from baby teeth up to ten years old are also being used to help regenerate the liver, treat diabetes, and grow new eye tissue.
Last year researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Fourth Military Medicine University in Xi'an, China reported they were working on treating dental injuries such as 'dead teeth' using stem cells extracted from patients' own baby teeth.
'This treatment gives patients sensation back in their teeth. If you give them a warm or cold stimulation, they can feel it; they have living teeth again.' Songtao Shi from the University of Pennsylvania said.
While many of these treatments are still in trial phases, harvesting stem cells from baby teeth will most likely become commonplace in the future.
So hang on to those baby teeth. One day your kids may need the precious cells contained inside.