Teeth undergo postnatal organogenesis relatively late in life and only complete full maturation a few years after the crown first erupts in the oral cavity. At this stage, development can be arrested if the tooth organ is damaged by either trauma or caries. Regenerative endodontic procedures (REPs) are a treatment alternative to conventional root canal treatment for immature teeth. These procedures rely on the transfer of apically positioned stem cells, including stem cells of the apical papilla (SCAP), into the root canal system. Although clinical success has been reported for these procedures, the predictability of expected outcomes and the organization of the newly formed tissues are affected by the lack of an available suitable scaffold that mimics the complexity of the dental pulp extracellular matrix (ECM). In this study, we evaluated 3 methods of decellularization of human dental pulp to be used as a potential autograft scaffold. Tooth slices of human healthy extracted third molars were decellularized by 3 different methods. One of the methods generated the maximum observed decellularization with minimal impact on the ECM composition and organization. Furthermore, recellularization of the scaffold supported the proliferation of SCAP throughout the scaffold with differentiation into odontoblast-like cells near the dentinal walls. Thus, this study reports that human dental pulp from healthy extracted teeth can be successfully decellularized, and the resulting scaffold supports the proliferation and differentiation of SCAP. The future application of this form of an autograft in REPs can fulfill a yet unmet need for a suitable scaffold, potentially improving clinical outcomes and ultimately promoting the survival and function of teeth with otherwise poor prognosis.
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