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Vol. 193, No. 6, 2011
Issue release date: May 2011
Cells Tissues Organs 2011;193:366–378

Ultrastructural and Immunocytochemical Analysis of Multilineage Differentiated Human Dental Pulp- and Umbilical Cord-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Struys T. · Moreels M. · Martens W. · Donders R. · Wolfs E. · Lambrichts I.
aLab of Histology, Biomedical Research Institute, Hasselt University, Diepenbeek, and bMolecular and Cellular Biology, Institute for Environment, Health and Safety, Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN), Mol, Belgium

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Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are one of the most promising stem cell types due to their availability and relatively simple requirements for in vitro expansion and genetic manipulation. Besides the well-characterized MSCs derived from bone marrow, there is growing evidence suggesting that dental pulp and the umbilical cord matrix both contain a substantial amount of cells having properties similar to those of MSCs. In order to assess the potential of dental pulp-derived MSCs (DPSC) and umbilical cord-derived MSCs (UCSC) in future clinical applications, it is essential to gain more insight into their differentiation capacity and to evaluate the tissues formed by these cells. In the present study, the morphological and ultrastructural characteristics of DPSC and UCSC induced towards osteogenic, adipogenic, and chondrogenic lineages were investigated. Cultured DPSC and UCSC showed a similar expression pattern of antigens characteristic of MSCs including CD105, CD29, CD44, CD146, and STRO-1. Under appropriate culture conditions, both DPSC and UCSC showed chondrogenic and osteogenic potential. Adipogenesis could be only partially induced in DPSC resulting in the de novo expression of fatty acid binding protein (FABP), whereas UCSC expressed FABP combined with a very high accumulation of lipid droplets in the cytoplasm. Our results demonstrate, at the biochemical and ultrastructural level, that DPSC display at least bilineage potential, whereas UCSC, which are developmentally more primitive cells, show trilineage potential. We emphasize that transmission electron microscopical analysis is useful to elucidate detailed structural information and provides indisputable evidence of differentiation. These findings highlight their potential therapeutic value for cell-based tissue engineering.

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