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Arch Oral Biol. 2001 Mar;46(3):221-8.

Characterization of alpha-smooth muscle actin positive cells in mineralized human dental pulp cultures.

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Faculté de Chirurgie Dentaire, place Alexis Ricordeau, Nantes Universtiy, 44042, Nantes, France.


In response to injury, pulp precursor cells can differentiate into odontoblast-like cells that produce reparative dentine. In culture, pulp cells form mineralizing nodules, but the characteristics of the cells involved in this process are still not fully known. Human pulp cells for culture were obtained from coronal pulp isolated from non-erupted molars, and were maintained in RPMI 1640 medium supplemented with fetal calf serum. Nodules were forming in all human pulp primary cultures (HPPc) and human pulp subcultures observed until their fifth passage (HPSc<5). Mineralization of the nodules was confirmed by the presence of calcium and phosphate that were quantified by X-ray microanalysis. Specific immunolabeling revealed alpha-smooth muscle actin and vimentin in both HPPc and HPSc<5 cells. Cells positive for alpha-smooth muscle actin were either isolated or gathered together in the nodules. Under transmission electron microscopy, some cells in primary pulp cultures exhibited features typical of myofibroblasts or pericytes, such as stress fibers, fibronexus, indented nuclei and gap-junctions. These cells were frequently in close contact with mineral deposits. This work demonstrates for the first time the presence of pericytes or myofibroblasts in mineralized human pulp cultures, but further investigation is required to determine their origin, role and degree of differentiation.

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