Background: Potent stem/progenitor cells have been isolated from normal human dental pulps termed dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs). However, it is unknown whether these cells exist in inflamed pulps (IPs). Aims: To determine whether DPSCs can be identified and isolated from IPs; and if they can be successfully cultured, whether they retain tissue regeneration potential in vivo. Materials & methods: DPSCs from freshly collected normal pulps (NPs) and IPs were characterized in vitro and their tissue regeneration potential tested using an in vivo study model. Results: The immunohistochemical analysis showed that IPs expressed higher levels of mesenchymal stem cell markers STRO-1, CD90, CD105 and CD146 compared with NPs (p < 0.05). Flow cytometry analysis showed that DPSCs from both NPs and IPs expressed moderate to high levels of CD146, stage-specific embryonic antigen-4, CD73 and CD166. Total population doubling of DPSCs-IPs (44.6 ± 2.9) was lower than that of DPSCs-NPs (58.9 ± 2.5) (p < 0.05), and DPSCs-IPs appeared to have a decreased osteo/dentinogenic potential compared with DPSCs-NPs based on the mineral deposition in cultures. Nonetheless, DPSCs-IPs formed pulp/dentin complexes similar to DPSCs-NPs when transplanted into immunocompromised mice. Conclusion: DPSCs-IPs can be isolated and their mesenchymal stem cell marker profiles are similar to those from NPs. Although some stem cell properties of DPSCs-IPs were altered, cells from some samples remained potent in tissue regeneration in vivo.
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