When she was just 11 months old, Billie Sue Wozniak's daughter Juno was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that affects 1.25 million people and approximately 200,000 children under age 20 in the United States.
The disease had affected several members of Billie Sue's family, including her uncle, who passed away at the age of 30.
"My first thought was, 'Her life is going to be short,'" the 38-year-old from Reno, Nevada recalled. "The more that I learned, the more I found that many people with type 1 live longer and the treatment advances are really exciting."
While looking for treatments, Wozniak learned about encapsulation therapy, in which an encapsulated device containing insulin-producing islet cells derived from stem cells is implanted under the skin. The encapsulation device is designed to protect the cells from an autoimmune attack and may help people produce their own insulin.
After learning of the therapy through JDRF, Wozniak saw an ad on Facebook for Store-A-Tooth, a company that offers dental stem cell banking. She decided to move forward with the stem cell banking, just in case the encapsulation device became an option for Juno.
In March 2016, a dentist extracted four of Juno's teeth, and sent them to a lab so her stem cells could be cryopreserved. Wozniak plans to bank the stem cells from Juno's molars as well.
"It's a risk-I don't know for sure if it will work out," Wozniak said.
Dental stem cells: a future of possibilities
For years, stem cells from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow have been used to treat blood and bone marrow diseases, blood cancers and metabolic and immune disorders.