Composites and porous scaffolds produced with biodegradable natural polymers are very promising constructs which show high biocompatibility and suitable mechanical properties, with the possibility to be functionalized with growth factors involved in bone formation. For this purpose, alginate/hydroxyapatite (Alg/HAp) composite scaffolds using a novel production design were successfully developed and tested for their biocompatibility and osteoconductive properties in vitro. Redox homeostasis is crucial for dental pulp stem cell (DPSC) differentiation and mineralized matrix deposition, and interleukin-6 (IL-6) was found to be involved not only in immunomodulation but also in cell proliferation and differentiation. In the present study, we evaluated molecular pathways underlying the intracellular balance between redox homeostasis and extracellular matrix mineralization of DPSCs in the presence of composite scaffolds made of alginate and nano-hydroxyapatite (Alg/HAp). Prostaglandin-2 (PGE2) and IL-6 secretion was monitored by ELISA assays, and protein expression levels were quantified by Western blotting. This work aims to demonstrate a relationship between DPSC capacity to secrete a mineralized matrix in the presence of Alg/HAp scaffolds and their immunomodulatory properties. The variation of the molecular axis Nrf2 (nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2)/PGE2/IL-6 suggests a tight intracellular balance between oxidative stress responses and DPSC differentiation in the presence of Alg/HAp scaffolds.
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