Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Researchers create tear and saliva glands from stem cells

Salivary glands: #1 is Parotid gland,
#2 is Submandibular gland,
#3 is Sublingual gland
Researchers announced yesterday that they have created saliva glands and tear glands using stem cells from mice, taking a further step in organ regeneration.

Their research shows potential in the treatment of malfunctioning glands that cause "dry eye" or "dry mouth" syndromes, which affect tens of millions of people around the world, they said.

The research team, led by Takashi Tsuji of the Tokyo University of Science, grew the glands in the lab dish from epithelial stem cells, and transplanted the primitive organs into mice.

The researchers reported that both transplanted glands knitted well with the adjacent tissue, connecting up to ducts and nerve fibres.

The lacrimal glands, or tear glands, produced teardrops and the saliva gland responded normally to stimulus from food and protected the mouse against oral infection.

The glands worked over the long term, which in mice is the 18th-month mark, the researchers add.

Failure to lubricate the eyelid, a condition called corneal xerosis, can be dangerous for vision.

Millions of people have xerostomia, where lack of saliva leads to problems in swallowing or mouth infections, the study said.

"Several problems must be solved before the use of bio-engineered secretory glands becomes feasible," Tsuji's team cautioned, pointing to the need to build up a bank of suitable stem cells.

Previous research by the same team has involved "ectodermal" organ regeneration, involving tissue to replenish hair and teeth.

Miho Ogawa, Masamitsu Oshima, Aya Imamura, Yurie Sekine, Kentaro Ishida, Kentaro Yamashita, Kei Nakajima, Masatoshi Hirayama, Tetsuhiko Tachikawa & Takashi Tsuji (2013). Functional salivary gland regeneration by transplantation of a bioengineered organ germ Nature Communications DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3498

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