Mesenchymal stem cells acquire characteristics of cells in the periodontal ligament in vitro.
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Mesenchymal stem cells differentiate into multiple types of cells derived from mesenchyme. Periodontal ligament cells are primarily derived from mesenchyme; thus, we expected mesenchymal stem cells to differentiate into periodontal ligament. Using a combination of immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization on co-cultures of mesenchymal stem cells and periodontal ligament, we observed a significant increase in mesenchymal stem cells' expression of osteocalcin and osteopontin and a significant decrease in expression of bone sialoprotein, characteristics of periodontal ligament in vivo. Increased osteopontin and osteocalcin and decreased bone sialoprotein expression was detected within 7 days and maintained through 21 days of co-culture. We conclude that contact or factors from periodontal ligament induced mesenchymal stem cells to obtain periodontal-ligament-like characteristics. Importantly, analysis of the data suggests the feasibility of utilizing mesenchymal stem cells in clinical applications for repairing and/or regenerating periodontal tissue.