Stem cells are increasingly providing exciting therapeutic possibilities for the treatment of a variety of diseases. Bone marrow has traditionally been the main source of mesenchymal stem cells, but obtaining them can be invasive and has associated risks. More recently, adipose tissue has become recognised as a less invasive alternative tissue harvesting site and researchers have been looking for convenient locations from which to obtain these adipose derived stem cells (ASCs). Although subcutaneous adipose tissue is more widely distributed, for oral and maxillofacial surgery specifically, the buccal fat pat – a discrete area of adipose tissue in the cheek – may provide a more easily accessible source of ASCs.
New research published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy by Anna Brini from the University of Milan, Italy and colleagues, shows that the buccal fat pads of pigs contain stem cells with mesenchymal features that are able to osteodifferentiate. This provides further evidence for the use of buccal fat pad ASCs in oral and maxillofacial surgery as well as providing a new model for future research. Before these stem cells can be used in the clinic, preclinical studies are needed to validate their safety and efficacy. For this purpose, a swine model may be suitable as porcine and human bone share several features, including anatomy, morphology and healing time.
The researchers isolated ASCs from swine buccal fat pads and compared their features to ASCs isolated from the intrascapular subcutaneous adipose tissue from the same pigs. Porcine buccal fat pad ASCs were found to be very similar to subcutaneous intrascapular ASCs.
In dental tissue engineering, supports such as titanium are widely used, and newer materials such as silicon carbide (SIC) offer promising options to coat implants. The researchers investigated the ability of the porcine ASCs to grow and differentiate in vitro in the presence or absence of titanium or SIC scaffolds. The swine ASCs were, like human ASCs, able to adhere and differentiate on both scaffolds.
Buccal fat pad derived ASCs show promise as a future tissue engineering approach for oral and maxillofacial surgery and the swine model presents an appropriate preclinical model for future research into their use.