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Researchers aim to grow salivary glands using patient's own cells
Date:8/14/2012

Biologists, surgical oncologists and regenerative medicine specialists from Rice University, the University of Delaware and the Christiana Care Health System in Wilmington, Del., have begun a four-year program aimed at using cells to grow whole salivary glands that can replace those destroyed by cancer radiation therapy.

The research, which is funded by a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, could benefit thousands of cancer patients who suffer from xerostomia, or dry mouth.

Dry mouth is an especially severe problem for patients with cancers of the head and neck because the mouth's saliva-producing acinar cells are particularly susceptible to radiation. As a result, about 40,000 head and neck cancer patients who undergo standard radiation therapy each year report serious problems with dry mouth. The condition can make it painful for patients to swallow, eat and even speak. It also causes accelerated tooth decay and oral infections.

"We've already shown that we can harvest acinar cells prior to radiation therapy, grow them in the lab, implant them into test animals and maintain their ability to produce salivary enzymes," said Cindy Farach-Carson, Rice's Ralph and Dorothy Looney Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and the principal investigator on the new grant. "In the next phase of the research, we want to show that we can make whole salivary glands that can integrate into the host and increase saliva production. To do that, we need more than just saliva-producing cells. We need nerves and ducts and blood vessels and all the other things that make up the gland itself."

If the research is successful, it could pave the way for future clinical trials.

Farach-Carson, a biologist and longtime cancer researcher, said the regenerative salivary gland project is possible only because the research team includes experts in cell biology, clinic
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Contact: David Ruth
david@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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