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Scaffold-Free Nerve Conduits Engineered using Dental Pulp Stem Cells

Drewry, Michelle Dianne (2023) Scaffold-Free Nerve Conduits Engineered using Dental Pulp Stem Cells. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Current facial nerve treatments result in poor clinical outcomes due to slow and inefficient axon regeneration and aberrant reinnervation. Bioactive scaffold-free nerve conduits engineered using neurotrophic dental pulp stem/progenitor cells (DPSCs) and their aligned extracellular matrix (ECM) offer a promising alternative that addresses these clinical challenges. DPSCs intrinsically express high levels of neurotrophic factors, growth factors that induce axon regeneration, and an aligned ECM supplies guidance cues to direct extending axons. To form such conduits, human DPSCs were cultured on a substrate with linear microgrooves, stimulating the cells to align and deposit a linearly oriented ECM. The subsequent aligned DPSC sheets contained levels of neurotrophic factors previously established sufficient to induce axon regeneration and stimulated oriented neurite outgrowth when directly co-cultured with neuronal cells. Moreover, when DPSCs in aligned cell sheets were differentiated into glial Schwann cells, chemical induction cues from the differentiation media and mechanotransductive cues from the oriented ECM synergistically enhanced differentiation. The resulting DPSC-derived glial cells resembled repair Schwann cells, secreting higher levels of neurotrophic factors and remodeling their ECM to be more conducive to nerve regeneration, and promoted neuritogenesis similar to the undifferentiated DPSC sheets. Furthermore, scaffold-free nerve conduits were engineered by rolling aligned DPSC sheets into robust cylindrical tissues that maintained their organized ECM and NTF expression. These aligned conduits were used to bridge critical sized segmental nerve defects in the buccal branch of rat facial nerves. After 12 weeks, treatment with the DPSC conduits induced regeneration of myelinated axons and functional recovery similar or better than treatment with the clinical standard of care. Therefore, scaffold-free DPSC nerve conduits are capable of promoting axon regeneration, through a continuous supply of neurotrophic factors, and directing axon extension, through an endogenous aligned ECM, offering a promising therapy for facial nerve repair.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Drewry, Michelle Diannemdd64@pitt.edumdd640000-0001-5814-0223
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSyed-Picard,
Committee MemberCui,
Committee MemberCunningham,
Committee MemberDahl,
Committee MemberMarra,
Date: 13 June 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 22 March 2023
Approval Date: 13 June 2023
Submission Date: 31 March 2023
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 139
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Bioengineering
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Dental pulp stem cells; axon regeneration; nerve regeneration; scaffold-free tissue engineering; extracellular matrix; Schwann cells; neurotrophic factors; mechanotransduction
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2023 14:18
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2023 14:18


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