Introduction Pulp tissue regeneration is becoming a reality after discovery of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) residing in the pulp tissues through various clinical innovations, although MSC transplantation into the pulp space has met with challenges of in vitro cell expansion and cultures. As a way to circumvent the regulatory and technical complexities of in vitro MSC culture, we investigated the use of minced pulp tissues as a source of pulpal MSCs for tissue regeneration. Methods We characterized the phenotype of cells explanted from minced pulp (MP), namely MP-derived MSCs (MP-MSCs), compared with dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs) established from pulp tissues by enzyme digestion. Phenotypic characterization included replication kinetics, immunophenotyping, and multilineage differentiation. Using the tooth slice model, we assessed odonto/osteogenic differentiation of DPSCs, MP-MSCs, and minced pulp tissues in situ. Results In vitro replication of MP-MSCs occurred more rapidly during the initial phase of subcultures compared with DPSCs; however, MP-MSCs arrived at senescence at population doubling 47, whereas DPSCs replicated until population doubling 64, indicating shorter replicative lifespan. MP-MSCs also demonstrated stronger odonto/osteogenic differentiation than DPSCs by alkaline phosphatase activity and the protein expression. Both MP-MSCs and DPSCs demonstrated odonto/osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation capacities. Both cell types also showed mineralized tissue formation in the tooth slice model. Seeding minced pulp tissue on poly-L-lactic acid scaffold allowed for migration of MP-MSCs from the tissues and odontogenic differentiation with dentin sialophosphoprotein expression in the tooth slice model. Conclusions These data indicated that MP may be an alternative source of pulpal MSCs that may allow de novo pulp-dentin regeneration without the need for in vitro culture and expansion.
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