EVIDENCE THAT HUMAN ORAL EPITHELIUM RECONSTITUTED IN VITRO AND TRANSPLANTED ONTO PATIENTS WITH DEFECTS IN THE ORAL MUCOSA RETAINS PROPERTIES OF THE ORIGINAL DONOR SITE1

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Abstract

Normal human skin—derived keratinocytes cultured in vitro reconstitute a stratified epidermis suitable for grafting onto burn patients and patients with skin defects such as giant nevi or chronic leg ulcers. In vitro experiments and long-term studies of patients receiving cultured epidermis autografts on muscular fascia suggest that skin keratinocytes possess an intrinsic site specific differentiation program that is fully expressed only when the reconstituted epidermis is transplanted in vivo to different body sites. In this study we cultivated for the first time palate-derived epithelial cells that were able to reconstitute a palatal epithelium. We also demonstrate that this epithelium can be successfully transplanted onto patients presenting lack of adherent keratinizing gingival mucosa and is able, in a relatively short time, to fully express the differentiation program typical of the original donor site. The possibility of obtaining large quantities of cultured epithelium, able to retain properties of the original donor site, starting from 1–3-mm2 biopsies, could prove extremely useful in the reconstructive surgery of the mouth and of other mucosal body areas.

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