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An Oral-mucosa-on-a-chip sensitively evaluates cell responses to dental monomers


Knowledge of human gingival cell responses to dental monomers is critical for the development of new dental materials. Testing standards have been developed to provide guidelines to evaluate biological functionality of dental materials and devices. However, one shortcoming of the traditional testing platforms is that they do not recapitulate the multi-layered configuration of gingiva, and thus cannot evaluate the layer-specific cellular responses. An oral mucosa-chip with two cell layers was previously developed as an alternative platform to assess the oral mucosa responses to dental biomaterials. The mucosa-chip consists of an apical keratinocyte layer attached to a fibroblast-embedded collagen hydrogel through interconnecting pores in a three-microchannel network. Here, cell responses in the mucosa-chip were evaluated against 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA), a common monomer used in restorative and aesthetic dentistry. The response of mucosal cell viability was evaluated by exposing the chip to HEMA of concentrations ranging from 1.56 to 25 mM and compared to cells in conventional well-plate monoculture. The co-cultured cells were then stained and imaged with epifluorescence and confocal microscopy to determine the layer-specific responses to the treatment. Mucosa-chips were demonstrated to be more sensitive to assess HEMA-altered cell viability than well-plate cultures, especially at lower doses (1.56 and 6.25 mM). The findings suggest that the mucosa-chip is a promising alternative to traditional platforms or assays to test a variety of biomaterials by offering a multi-layered tissue geometry, accessible layer-specific information, and higher sensitivity in detecting cellular responses.

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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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This effort was supported in part by the American Dental Association (ADA), ADA Foundation, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (R01-DE26122-02), and the National Institute of General Medical Science (1R15GM129766-01). Authors gratefully acknowledge donation of HEMA from Esstech, Essington, PA.

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Correspondence to Christopher B. Raub or Xiaolong Luo.

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Ly, K.L., Rooholghodos, S.A., Rahimi, C. et al. An Oral-mucosa-on-a-chip sensitively evaluates cell responses to dental monomers. Biomed Microdevices 23, 7 (2021).

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  • Mucosa-on-a-chip
  • Gingiva
  • Dental materials testing
  • 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate
  • Cell viability