The aim of this study was to determine the ultrastructural characteristics of the microvasculature of healthy human dental pulp, with particular reference to pericytes. Pulp tissue was taken from healthy impacted third molars following extraction. Eight teeth were obtained from 17- to 25-year-old patients and pulp tissue was processed for examination using standard techniques for transmission electron microscopy. The pulp was rich in capillaries composed of endothelial and peri-endothelial cells in a 4 : 1 ratio. Endothelial cells contained typical and abundant Weibel-Palade bodies. Three types of peri-endothelial cells were identified: pericytes, transitional cells and fibroblasts. Pericytes were embedded within the capillary basement membrane. Transitional cells were partly surrounded by basement membrane, but separated from the endothelium by collagen fibrils; fibroblasts were outside, but adjacent to the basement membrane and closely associated with collagen fibrils. Pericytes and transitional cells, but not peri-endothelial fibroblasts, contained low numbers of dense bodies similar to the endothelial Weibel-Palade bodies. Our observations are consistent with the hypothesis that, during normal tissue turnover, some pericytes may originate from endothelium and migrate away from the vessel wall to undergo transition to a fibroblastic phenotype.
- Electron Microscopy
- Endothelial Cell
- Transmission Electron Microscopy
- Normal Tissue