Dr. Catherine Ovitt
Salivary glands, which make as much as a quart of saliva each day, don’t pose a life-threatening risk if they stop working properly. But given their roles — they are important for swallowing, keep the inside of your mouth moist so your cheeks can move around, and have both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties — a malfunction would greatly impact quality of life.
Medical scientist Catherine Ovitt has dedicated her career to the study of salivary glands, in particular to establishing therapeutic strategies for their repair or regeneration after damage from radiation treatment due to head and neck cancers, or because of cellular damage from autoimmune diseases.
“A long-term goal would be to develop some sort of cell therapy treatment, some kind of transplantation or artificial salivary gland,” said Ovitt, who lives in Pittsford and is an associate professor in the Center for Oral Biology, part of UR Medicine’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health. Without the glands, she added, “you end up losing all your teeth.”