The present study investigated the detailed in vitro osteogenic differentiation process and in vivo bone regenerative property of human amniotic epithelial cells (hAECs). The in vitro osteogenic differentiation process of hAECs was evaluated by biochemical staining, real-time polymerase chain reaction, and immunofluorescence. Next, β-tricalcium phosphate (β-TCP) scaffolds alone or loaded with hAECs were implanted into the alveolar defects of rats. Micro-computed tomography evaluation and histologic studies were conducted. Our results validated the in vitro osteogenic capacity of hAECs by upregulation of Runx2, osterix, alkaline phosphatase, collagen I, and osteopontin, with positive biochemical staining for osteoblasts. An epithelial-mesenchymal transformation process might be involved in the osteogenic differentiation of hAECs by increased expression of transforming growth factor-β1. Our data also demonstrated that in vivo implantation of hAECs loaded on β-TCP scaffolds, not only improved bone regeneration by direct participation, but also reduced the early host immune response to the scaffolds. The presented data indicate that hAECs possess proper osteogenic differentiation potential and a modulatory influence on the early tissue remodeling process, making these cells a potential source of progenitor cells for clinical restoration of the alveolar defect.
Keywords: Alveolar defect; Host immune response; Human amniotic epithelial cells; Osteogenesis.