Dental pulp-derived stem cells (DPSCs) are capable of differentiating into different lineages of neural cells, thus rendering them a promising candidate seed cells for peripheral nerve regeneration. Tissue-engineered nerve conduits with DPSCs have been shown to promote facial nerve regeneration in rats. Our preliminary data showed that DPSCs can be differentiated into both Schwann and neuron-like cells when cultured under 2D- and small-intestine submucosa (SIS) membranes. Based on these findings, we hypothesize that DPSCs seeded on SIS-scaffolds could represent a promising alternative stem cell-based nerve wrap for facial nerve repair/regeneration. Our project aims to optimize the conditions to differentiate DPSCs into both Schwann and neuronal cells under 2D- and SIS 3D-culture conditions. Human DPSCs can be an excellent candidate for peripheral nerve regeneration due to its neural crest origin, sufficient availability, ready accessibility, non-invasive harvesting procedures, rapid proliferation, multipotent differentiation, and successful integration into host tissues with immunologic tolerance. In addition, in combination with tissue engineering technologies, these DPSCs can also serve as a superior seed cell source for the development of engineered nerve products that hold great promises for clinical application for peripheral nerve repair/regeneration.
Supported by the Osteo Science Foundation