Hard palate, developed by embryo neural crest stem cells, is a tissue with strong regenerative abilities. It is considered an abundant source of progenitor cells, forming various mesenchymal tissues. Rabbits are more suitable models than murine animals for regenerative preclinical study of the head and neck, owing to their larger size. However, there are no reports of the existence or characteristics of neural crest stem cells in the hard palate of rabbits. In this study, we demonstrate for the first time the presence of nestin-, Sox2-, and p75-positive neural crest stem cells obtained from the hard palate of rabbits and the properties of these cells. Flow cytometry analysis revealed that CD29, CD44, and CD81 were positive; and CD11b, CD34, and CD90 were negative on the ex vivo expanded palatal progenitor cells. Finally, we differentiated them into cells of mesenchymal lineages (bone, cartilage, and fat) in vitro, and in three-dimensional fabricated polycaprolactone and polycaprolactone-tricalcium phosphate scaffolds. Taken together, our data showed the existence of rabbit palatum-derived mesenchymal progenitor cells, and successful fabrication of progenitor cell-loaded biodegradable scaffold using three-dimensional printing. This study will open avenues for new tissue engineering strategies for cell therapy using three-dimensional printing with scaffolds for reconstruction of head and neck defects.
Keywords: Mesenchymal progenitor cells; hard palate; head and neck tissue; rabbit; scaffolds; tissue engineering.