Human dental pulp stem/progenitor cells (hDPSCs) are attractive candidates for regenerative therapy because they can be easily expanded to generate colony-forming unit-fibroblasts (CFU-Fs) on plastic and the large cell numbers required for transplantation. However, isolation based on adherence to plastic inevitably changes the surface marker expression and biological properties of the cells. Consequently, little is currently known about the original phenotypes of tissue precursor cells that give rise to plastic-adherent CFU-Fs. To better understand the in vivo functions and translational therapeutic potential of hDPSCs and other stem cells, selective cell markers must be identified in the progenitor cells. Here, we identified a dental pulp tissue-specific cell population based on the expression profiles of 2 cell-surface markers LNGFR (CD271) and THY-1 (CD90). Prospectively isolated, dental pulp-derived LNGFRLow+THY-1High+ cells represent a highly enriched population of clonogenic cells - notably, the isolated cells exhibited long-term proliferation and multilineage differentiation potential in vitro. The cells also expressed known mesenchymal cell markers and promoted new bone formation to heal critical-size calvarial defects in vivo. These findings suggest that LNGFRLow+THY-1High+ dental pulp-derived cells provide an excellent source of material for bone regenerative strategies.
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