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Salivary Gland Development and Regeneration

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Saliva is critical for oral health, and salivary gland dysfunction has multiple and debilitating consequences. Saliva is produced by secretory acinar cells, the primary cell type in the submandibular, sublingual and parotid salivary glands, and is transported through a ductal tree to the oral cavity. Radiation therapy used to treat head and neck cancers leads to permanent loss of salivary gland secretory cells, which results in the chronic condition of dry mouth or xerostomia. The number of cancer survivors with xerostomia is increasing rapidly, due to the increased incidence of head and neck cancers, and improved outcomes for radiation therapy. To date, all treatment options are temporary and palliative.

Our laboratory is focused on two complementary approaches, one curative and one preventive, to address this significant problem:

  1. Regenerative strategies to restore salivary gland function in head and neck cancer survivors
  2. Improved protection strategies to prevent xerostomia in newly diagnosed patients

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