Postnatal dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs) represent a unique precursor population in the dental pulp, which have multipotential and harbor great potential for tissue engineering purposes. However, for therapy applications, transplanted cells are often exposed to unfavorable conditions such as cytokines released from necrotic or inflammatory cells in injured tissues. It is not clear how stem cells exposed to these conditions changes in their characteristics. In this study, the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1 and TNF, on DPSCs were investigated. Cells were treated with IL-1, TNF, or both for 3, 7, and 12 days. The cultures were evaluated for cell proliferation, ALP activity, and real-time PCR. We found that a short treatment (3 days) of pro-inflammatory cytokines induced the odontogenic differentiation of DPSCs. Furthermore, post 3 days treatment with pro-inflammatory cytokines, the cell-scaffold complexes were implanted subcutaneously in mice for 8 weeks. Histological analysis demonstrated that the cultures gave obviously mineralized tissue formation, especially for both IL-1 and TNF applied. These data suggest that IL-1 and TNF produced in the early inflammatory reaction may induce the mineralization of DPSCs.
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