Adult-derived mesenchymal stem cells have received considerable attention over the past two decades for their potential use in tissue engineering, principally because of their potential to differentiate into multiple stromal-cell lineages. Recently, the immunomodulatory properties of mesenchymal stem cells have attracted interest as a unique property of these cells that may be harnessed for novel therapeutic approaches in immune-mediated diseases. Mesenchymal stem cells have been shown to inhibit the proliferation of activated T-cells both in vitro and in vivo but to stimulate T-regulatory cell proliferation. Mesenchymal stem cells are also known to be weakly immunogenic and to exert immunosuppressive effects on B-cells, natural killer cells, dendritic cells and neutrophils through various mechanisms. Furthermore, intravenous administration of allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells has shown a marked suppression of host immune reactions in preclinical animal models of large-organ transplant rejection and in various autoimmune- and inflammatory-based diseases. Some clinical trials utilizing human mesenchymal stem cells have also produced promising outcomes in patients with graft-vs.-host disease and autoimmune diseases. Mesenchymal stem cells identified from various dental tissues, including periodontal ligament stem cells, also possess multipotent and immunomodulatory properties. Hence, dental mesenchymal stem cells may represent an alternate cell source, not only for tissue regeneration but also as therapies for autoimmune- and inflammatory-mediated diseases. These findings have elicited interest in dental tissue mesenchymal stem cells as alternative cell sources for modulating alloreactivity during tissue regeneration following transplantation into human leukocyte antigen-mismatched donors. To examine this potential in periodontal regeneration, future work will need to assess the capacity of allogeneic periodontal ligament stem cells to regenerate periodontal ligament in animal models of periodontal disease. The present review describes the immunosuppressive effects of mesenchymal stem cells on various types of immune cells, the potential mechanisms through which they exert their mode of action and the preclinical animal studies and human clinical trials that have utilized mesenchymal stem cells, including those populations originating from dental structures.
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