Dental pulp mesenchymal stem cells (DPMSCs) highly express mesenchymal stem cell markers and possess the potential to differentiate into neural cells, osteoblasts, adipocytes, and chondrocytes. Thus, DPMSCs are considered suitable for tissue regeneration.
The colony isolation method has commonly been used to collect relatively large amounts of heterogeneous DPMSCs. Homogenous DPMSCs can be isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting using antibodies against mesenchymal stem cell markers, although this method yields a limited number of cells. Both quality and quantity of DPMSCs are critical to regenerative therapy, and cell culture methods need to be improved. We thus investigated the properties of DPMSCs cultured with different methods.
DPMSCs in a three-dimensional spheroid culture system, which is similar to the hanging drop culture for differentiation of embryonic stem cells, showed upregulation of odonto-/osteoblastic markers and mineralized nodule formation. This suggests that this three-dimensional spheroid culturing system for DPMSCs may be suitable for inducing hard tissues. We further examined the effect of cell culture density on the properties of DPMSCs because the properties of stem cells can be altered depending on the cell density. DPMSCs cultured under the confluent cell density condition showed slight downregulation of some mesenchymal stem cell markers compared with those under the sparse condition.
The ability of DPMSCs to differentiate into hard tissue–forming cells was found to be enhanced in the confluent condition, suggesting that the confluent culture condition may not be suitable for maintaining the stemness of DPMSCs. When DPMSCs are to be used for hard tissue regeneration, dense followed by sparse cell culture conditions may be a better alternative strategy.