Objective Successful and fast soft tissue healing around dental implants is one of the major? challenges in contemporary implantology. Resident progenitor cells play an important role in soft tissue healing processes mainly through paracrine activity and production of various growth factors. In the present study we investigated how titanium and zirconia surfaces with different roughness influence cell proliferation/viability and the production of various growth factors involved in soft tissue healing: epidermal growth factor, fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-2, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, TGF-β3, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Methods Primary human gingival progenitor cells were isolated from 7 healthy individuals. Cells were cultured on following surfaces: smooth titanium machined surface (TiM), smooth zirconia machined surface (ZiM), moderately rough titanium sandblasted acid-etched surface (SLA), zirconia sand-blasted acid-etched surface (ZLA). Cell proliferation/viability was measured by CCK-8 assay after 48 and 120 h of culture. The expression of growth factors was investigated by qPCR after 168 h of culture. Result Cell proliferation/viability after 48 h of culture was influenced by both surface roughness and material. Gingival progenitor cells grown on smooth surfaces exhibited significantly higher proliferation compared to cells grown on moderately rough surfaces. Furthermore, cells cultured on zirconia surfaces exhibited significantly higher proliferation compared to titanium surfaces. Similar tendency was observed after 120 h, but the differences between surfaces were not statistically significant. Gene expression analysis showed that within surfaces with similar roughness the expression of some growth factors was higher in cells grown on zirconia surfaces compared to titanium surfaces. Significant differences were observed between ZLA and SLA surfaces for FGF-7, TGF-β1, and VEGF as well as between ZiM and TiM surfaces for VEGF. No significant effect of surface roughness on the expression of different growth factors in gingival progenitor cells was observed. No significant differences in the expression of EGF, FGF-2, and TGF-β3 were observed. Conclusion The expression of growth factors in gingival progenitor cells is higher on zirconia surfaces compared to titanium surfaces. Hence, the application of zirconia as material for implant abutments might contribute to the soft tissue healing process.
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