Hypoxia enhances colony formation and proliferation but inhibits differentiation of human dental pulp cells.
The hypoxia condition was expected to be suitable for the establishment and maintenance of human dental pulp cells (hDPCs), because they reside in a low-oxygen environment in vivo. Therefore, we presently examined the effects of hypoxia on the proliferation and differentiation of hDPCs in vitro. hDPCs grown under 3% O(2) showed a significantly higher proliferation rate than those under 21% O(2). Then, we prepared hypoxic cultures of hDPCs from older patients' teeth having inflammation and succeeded in recovering and expanding a small number of hDPCs. These cells were confirmed to have capability for osteo/odontogenic differentiation. Hypoxia suppressed the osteo/odontogenic differentiation of hDPCs in vitro and increased the number of cells expressing STRO-1, an early mesenchymal stem cell marker. This simple method will increase the possibility to obtain living hDPCs from damaged and/or aged tissues, from which it is ordinarily difficult to isolate living stem cells with differentiation capability.