Elucidating the mechanisms underlying human pain sensation requires the establishment of an in vitro model of pain reception comprising human cells expressing pain-sensing receptors and function properly as neurons. Human dental pulp stem cells (hDPSCs) are mesenchymal stem cells and a promising candidate for producing human neuronal cells, however, the functional properties of differentiated hDPSCs have not yet been fully characterized. In this study, we demonstrated neuronal differentiation of hDPSCs via both their expression of neuronal marker proteins and their neuronal function examined using Ca2+ imaging. Moreover, to confirm the ability of nociception, Ca2+ responses in differentiated hDPSCs were compared to those of rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Those cells showed similar responses to glutamate, ATP and agonists of transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. Since TRP channels are implicated in nociception, differentiated hDPSCs provide a useful in vitro model of human peripheral neuron response to stimuli interpreted as pain.
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