Signaling Molecules and Pulp Regeneration

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Signaling molecules play an essential role in tissue engineering because they regulate regenerative processes. Evidence exists from animal studies that single molecules such as members of the transforming growth factor beta superfamily and factors that induce the growth of blood vessels (vascular endothelial growth factor), nerves (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), or fibroblasts (fibroblast growth factor) may induce reparative dentin formation. Mainly the formation of atubular dentin (osteodentin) has been described after the application of single molecules or combinations of recombinant growth factors on healthy exposed pulps or in pulp regeneration. Generally, such preparations have not received regulatory approval on the market so far. Only the use of granulocyte colony-stimulating factors together with cell transplantation is presently tested clinically. Besides approaches with only 1 or few combined molecules, the exploitation of tissue-derived growth factors depicts a third promising way in dental pulp tissue engineering. Preparations such as platelet-rich plasma or platelet-rich fibrin provide a multitude of endogenous signaling molecules, and special regulatory approval for the market does not seem necessary. Furthermore, dentin is a perfect reservoir of signaling molecules that can be mobilized by treatment with demineralizing agents such as EDTA. This conditions the dentin surface and allows for contact differentiation of pulp stem cells into odontoblastlike cells, protects dentin from resorption, and enhances cell growth as well as attachment to dentin. By ultrasonic activation, signaling molecules can be further released from EDTA pretreated dentin into saline, thus avoiding cytotoxic EDTA in the final preparation. The use of dentin-derived growth factors offers a number of advantages because they are locally available and presumably are most fit to induce signaling processes in dental pulp. However, better characterization and standardization of the procedures are required.

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