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Keywords:

  • oral mucosa;
  • progenitor cell;
  • dermis;
  • fibroblast;
  • vasculature

This review considers the potential existence and role of stem or progenitor cell populations within the non-epithelial tissues of the oral mucosa. Currently, there is little published evidence supporting this hypothesis; however, because of the similarities in structure and function of the oral mucosa and skin, findings within the dermis of the skin may potentially reflect the situation within the oral mucosa. Over recent years, the identification of the skin as a local reservoir of adult stem cell populations and the idea that multipotent cell populations exist within the dermal tissues of skin has gained increasing credibility. Indeed, numerous multipotent progenitor cells have been identified within the dermis and resident appendages, all capable of differentiating into multiple cell lineages. Furthermore, a number of these cell populations have been implicated in the repair of these tissues following injury. There is increasing evidence suggesting that such populations of progenitor cells may also reside within the lamina propria. In this respect, the ability to isolate large numbers of multipotent progenitor cells from a tissue which when biopsied heals without a scar would be of great interest scientifically and commercially, particularly with respect to future therapeutic applications and the developing discipline of tissue engineering.