News / Health

Scientists Find Key to Regenerating Salivary Glands

The parasympathetic nerves of a developing salivary gland innervate the salivary gland epithelium which is essential for organogenesis. The image shows a single projection of a stack of optical sections of an E14 mouse salivary gland. Colors have been alt
The parasympathetic nerves of a developing salivary gland innervate the salivary gland epithelium which is essential for organogenesis. The image shows a single projection of a stack of optical sections of an E14 mouse salivary gland. Colors have been alt
Jessica Berman

Scientists have discovered the key to rehabilitating damaged salivary glands, promising relief for head and neck cancer patients whose glands are destroyed by radiation therapy. 

Living with non-functioning salivary glands has been a necessary evil for head and neck cancer patients who must undergo lengthy programs of radiation therapy. 

The side effect, chronic dry mouth, causes bad breath and problems with taste. People with a rare autoimmune disorder called Sjogren's syndrome also have non-functioning salivary glands.

But researchers now believe it might one day be possible to regenerate the damaged glands by stimulating the growth of nerve tissue in the organs.

The observation that nerve cells play a key role in the proper functioning of salivary glands was made about a hundred years ago in famous experiments by Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov, according to Jason Rock, a biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

"He had these dogs and he would rings a bell and then feed them," he said. "And then eventually they made such a strong association there that they could salivate without having any food present just by hearing this bell.  And I think that what he did is actually to cut the nerve and show that they didn't do this.   So, it was a very physiological thing where they had to have neuronal input coming into the nerve to stimulate that salivation."

In experiments with mice, Matthew Hoffman, a biologist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and his colleagues found that nerve cells stimulate the growth of salivary glands early in fetal development.

"Really what we discovered was that the nerves that are present around the gland as it is developing are actually influencing the progenitor, or stem cells, as the glands develop.  And we could potentially use that in a regenerative complex in the adult," he said.

Just as Pavlov's dogs stopped salivating when their nerves were cut, Hoffman says investigators found fetal salivary glands stopped growing when they removed the surrounding nerves.

Hoffman says teams of researchers from around the world have been investigating stem cell therapy as a way to regenerate salivary glands and restore function, but without much success.

"They're sort of operating a bit in the dark because they don't really know which cells it is they should be trying to maintain or purify," he said. "And so our work has really led us to identify [a] particular sub-population of cells that are in the gland that respond to the nerve and are involved in forming the tissue and likely involved in regenerating the tissue."

Hoffman envisions taking salivary tissue samples from cancer patients before they undergo radiation therapy, isolating and culturing the surrounding nerve tissue and then reintroducing the cells at a later time to begin the process of regeneration.

An article on the role of nerve cells in salivary gland development, and commentary by Duke University Jason Rock, are published in the journal Science.

You May Like

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid