PhD Opportunity – Stem Cell Exosomes – Important Communicators with Therapeutic Potential in the Dental Pulp

The regenerative potential of mesenchymal stem cells has recently been attributed to exosomes, defined as extracellular vesicles of endocytic origin. This project will focus on studying the regenerative capacity of mesenchymal stem cell exosomes with particular focus on the role in the dental pulp.

Emerging research indicates that the regenerative potential of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is associated with cell signalling rather than cell engraftment. A major conceptual breakthrough in cell signalling has been the discovery of exosomes, defined as extracellular vesicles of endocytic origin. Exosomes carry a complex cargo including proteins, RNA and DNA. Exosomal content reflects their cellular source and their specific signature therefore has the potential to modulate the function/ activity of neighbouring cells.

Our research group has a strong track record in the regenerative properties of the dental pulp. Work from our group has been instrumental in demonstrating that odontoblasts as well as nerves, can sense the external environment and that following injury and infection the nerves, odontoblasts, and other pulp cells mount a response to defend the pulp tissue prior to repair and regeneration. This work has been instrumental in encouraging changes in clinical decision-making, and consideration of what was previously deemed as ‘irreversible pulpitis’ to have the potential to repair and regenerate.

Dental pulp mesenchymal stem/ stromal cells are particularly remarkable cells because of their neural crest origin and neurotrophic potential. Dental pulp MSCs are also capable of differentiation into odontoblasts-like cells which have an important role in pulpal regeneration. This project aims to determine the neurotrophic and odontogenic potential of exosomes derived from dental pulp stem cells.

Exosomes will be prepared from dental pulp stem cells, and characterised by nanoparticle tracking analysis, Western blotting and transmission electron microscopy. The neurotrophic potential of exosomes will be determined by neurite extension assay following treatment of SHSY5Y cells and their odontogenic potential will be determined by qPCR, alkaline phosphatase assay and alizarin red assay following treatment of undifferentiated stem cells. Further study of neuronal signalling will include confocal calcium imaging and patch clamp recording following SHSY5Y treatment with exosomes.


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