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Oral Health Research Restorative Dentistry

Are gingival cells a therapeutic solution?


This summary is based on the article published in the Stem Cell and Development journal: Gingiva as a source of stem cells with therapeutic potential (December 2013)

 Benjamin P.J. Fournier, Hannu Larjava, and Lari Hakkinen


Postnatal connective tissues contain phenotypically heterogeneous cells populations that include distinct fibroblast subpopulations, pericytes, myofibroblasts, fibrocytes, and tissue-specific mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These cells play key roles in tissue development, maintenance, and repair and contribute to various pathologies. Depending on the origin of tissue, connective tissue cells, including MSCs, have different phenotypes.

Understanding the identity and specific functions of these distinct tissue-specific cell populations may allow researchers to develop better treatment modalities for tissue regeneration and find novel approaches to prevent pathological conditions. Interestingly, MSCs from adult oral mucosal gingiva possess distinct characteristics, including neural crest origin, multipotent differentiation capacity, fetal-like phenotype, and potent immunomodulatory properties. These characteristics and an easy, relatively noninvasive access to gingival tissue, and fast tissue regeneration after tissue biopsy make gingiva an attractive target for cell isolation for therapeutic purposes aiming to promote tissue regeneration and fast, scar-free wound healing. 

Purpose of the Review

Discuss the identity, phenotypical heterogeneity, and function of gingival MSCs and summarize what is currently known about their properties, role in scar-free healing, and their future therapeutic potential.

Key Messages

Connective tissue cells form a phenotypically heterogeneous group of cells that play key roles in tissue development, maintenance, and repair and contribute to various pathologies. These cells can be relatively easily isolated and expanded in cell culture.

Depending on tissue origin, connective tissue cell cultures contain cells, most notably MSCs, that possess distinct ability for multipotent differentiation and immunomodulation and promote vasculogenesis/angiogenesis and epithelialization. Identification of distinct phenotypic properties of these cells from different tissues may provide novel opportunities to selectively use different phenotypic traits for various tissue regeneration modalities.

Adult oral mucosal connective tissue cells, and in particular MSCs, can be easily harvested with little morbidity and possess distinct characteristics, including neural crest origin, multipotent differentiation capacity, fetal-like phenotype, and potent immunomodulatory properties, that may be utilized to promote tissue regeneration and fast, scar-free wound healing.


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