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PLoS One. 2019 May 9;14(5):e0215780. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0215780. eCollection 2019.

Dentin tubule orientation determines odontoblastic differentiation in vitro: A morphological study.

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Department of Pathology. Faculty of Medicine and Odontology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain.
Fundación para la Investigación del Hospital Clínico de la Comunidad Valenciana (INCLIVA), Valencia, Spain.
Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Respiratorias (CIBERES), Madrid, Spain.
Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red en Bioingeniería, Biomateriales y Nanomedicina (CIBERBBN), Madrid, Spain.


Odontoblasts are post-mitotic cells responsible for maintenance of the dentin, and are therefore important for dental health. In some cases, irreversible pulpitis leads to necrosis and consequently death of odontoblasts. Regenerative endodontics (RE) uses the concept of tissue engineering to restore the root canals to a healthy state, allowing for continued development of the root and surrounding tissue. Human dental pulp stem cells (hDPSCs) have been successfully used in RE to restore odontoblast function. Surface microgeometry is one of the most important factors involved in the induction of differentiation of hDPSCs into odontoblast-like cells. Although different authors have demonstrated the importance of a dentin-like surface with accessible dentin tubules to induce differentiation of hDPSCs, the ultrastructural characteristics of the cells and the secreted extracellular matrix have not been studied in depth. Here, we used an acellular dentin scaffold containing dentin tubules in different spatial geometries, which regulated their accessibility to cells. hDPSCs were cultured on the scaffolds for up to 6 weeks. Systematic characterization of differentiated cells was performed using both optical (hematoxylin and eosin, Masson trichrome, and immunohistochemical determination of dentin sialoprotein [DSSP]) and transmission electron microscopy. The results presented here indicated that cells grown on the dentin surface containing accessible dentin tubules developed a characteristic odontoblastic phenotype, with cellular processes similar to native odontoblasts. The cell organization and characteristics of secreted extracellular matrix were also similar to those of native dentin tissue. Cells grown on non-accessible dentin tubule surfaces secreted a more abundant and dense extracellular matrix, and developed a different phenotype consisting of secretory flat cells organized in layers. Cells grown far from the scaffold, i.e., directly on the culture well surface, developed a secretory phenotype probably influenced by biochemical factors released by the dentin scaffold or differentiated cells. The results presented here support the use of hDPSCs to regenerate dentin and show the utility of scaffold microgeometry for determining the differentiation and secretory phenotype of cultured cells.

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Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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