Tissue engineering therapies using adult stem cells derived from neural crest have sought accessible tissue sources of these cells because of their potential pluripotency. In this study, the gingiva and oral mucosa and their associated stem cells were investigated. Biopsies of these tissues produce neither scarring nor functional problems and are relatively painless, and fresh tissue can be obtained readily during different chairside dental procedures. However, the embryonic origin of these cells needs to be clarified, as does their evolution from the perinatal period to adulthood. In this study, the embryonic origin of gingival fibroblasts were determined, including gingival stem cells. To do this, transgenic mouse models were used to track neural crest derivatives as well as cells derived from paraxial mesoderm, spanning from embryogenesis to adulthood. These cells were compared with ones derived from abdominal dermis and facial dermis. Our results showed that gingival fibroblasts are derived from neural crest, and that paraxial mesoderm is involved in the vasculogenesis of oral tissues during development. Our in vitro studies revealed that the neuroectodermal origin of gingival fibroblasts (or gingival stem cells) endows them with multipotential properties as well as a specific migratory and contractile phenotype which may participate to the scar-free properties of the oral mucosa. Together, these results illustrate the high regenerative potential of neural crest-derived stem cells of the oral mucosa, including the gingiva, and strongly support their use in cell therapy to regenerate tissues with impaired healing.
Keywords: Cell tracking; Mouth mucosa; Multipotent stem cells; Neural crest; Skin; Wound healing.
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