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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora